A MASSIVE new campaign to save Stafford Hospital launches today, backed by the Newsletter, with a rallying call to residents to fight for their hospital.
Organisers want to use people power to retain vital services at the hospital and one of the centrepieces of the Support Stafford Hospital campaign will be a protest march from Market Square to the hospital on Saturday, April 20.
The news comes in the week the Care Quality Commission gave the hospital a clean bill of health and the government's American zero harm health guru Don Berwick said his "heart bleeds" for the people of Stafford.
Organisers are also commissioning a consultant to examine a report published by Monitor's contingency planning team last week which proposes stripping the hospital of what are seen as vital services including the intensive care, maternity and accident and emergency units.
The consultant will prepare a report putting forward alternatives to the Monitor report and insist the Trust Special Administrator, who has yet to be appointed, considers them.
The group will lobby government, the NHS and GPs, who take over the running of the health finances next month.
Facebook and Twitter accounts have already been set up and a shop will open in the Guildhall within days which will be a central base where people can get updates and pledge support.
Campaigners from several different groups have joined forces to launch the group which also has the backing of MP Jeremy Lefroy, cross-party support from Stafford Borough Council and the WI.
Council leader Mike Heenan said: "This is our last chance. People can't think someone else will get on board - everybody's got to get on board.
"We want this to be a really big campaign. All the people I talk to in Stafford are so worried about these proposals. We have got to get the message out to the public and the administrator that the Monitor recommendations are not the only way.
"There's an awful lot of work to be done."
Diana Smith said: "The main thing people can do is to make sure they are on one of the mailing lists. We have to show that the town is behind the hospital to get any leverage with the administrator so large numbers are important."
Several runners in Sunday's half marathon will wear T-shirts with the campaign's logo on.
Mr Lefroy said: "Public support is going to play a major role in this. 40,000 people came out to cheer on the Olympic torch.
I'm sure many, many Stafford residents will turn out to support retaining vital services at the hospital. They need to be there not just for our sake -they are critical to the region's health economy."
Anyone wanting to get involved should visit www.supportstaffordhospital.co.uk or Twitter @staffshospital and people wanting to help can email email@example.com or ring Cheryl Porter on 01785 661678 or Diana Smith 01785 255974.
If you'd be prepared to wear one of the T shirts as you run around the half marathon on Saturday get in touch with Cheryl or Diana.