News Date: Wednesday 31st October 2007
Campaigners take fight right to the top
Campaigners fighting to save hospitals in West Sussex yesterday (30 October) descended on Downing Street and the Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall to lodge their protest as the end of the Fit for the Future consultation period nears.
Under plans put forward by the West Sussex Primary Care Trust and the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority, hospitals like Worthing and Southlands and the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath could be downgraded and lose vital services such as consultant-led emergency, intensive care and consultant-led maternity.
Over 175,000 have signed petitions as part of the Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospitals (KWASH) and the Support the Princess Royal campaigns and protesters took to the streets in Westminster to make that voice heard.
A hospital bed stacked with petitions was pushed around Westminster, past the House of Lords, House of Commons and Big Ben and down Whitehall to Richmond House, the headquarters of the Department of Health, where MPs handed in a certificate for health secretary Alan Johnson setting out the strength of public opposition and the number of signatures gathered in support of the campaigns.
The health secretary had been invited to speak to campaigners but failed to respond.
Six campaigners then went to Downing Street to submit to prime minister Gordon Brown a list of over 200 Sussex GPs who are opposed to the downgrade plans as well as a further certificate for the Prime Minister, again bearing the 175,000 figure.
Dr Herry Ashby, Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards and Sally Fox represented the Princess Royal. KWASH was represented by Rod Hotton, Cat Hedger and Eileen Forster.
The full petitions will be presented to the West Sussex Primary Care Trust ahead of the consultation close on 14 November so that they can be taken into account in the Fit for the Future decision making process.
Worthing West MP Peter Bottomley, who attended the protest and went with campaigners to Downing Street, said: "This was a united show of support from campaigners across Worthing and Southlands and the Princess Royal. Local people want good local hospitals with consultant-led emergency and obstetric services. They march and sign in their thousands and hundreds of thousands. They must be listened to."
Also attending was East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton who said: "The fight will not stop. This downgrading does not have the support of local people. It does not have the support of local clinicians. We have made this point loudly now to the PCT, to the Department of Health and to the Prime Minister. This mad attack on our hospitals must stop."
Other MPs attending to show their support were Nicholas Soames, Nick Gibb, Nick Herbert, Norman Baker and Charles Hendry.
Click here to watch a video of the protest.