Stafford Hospital campaigners are facing a double blow today after two applications for judicial review of the shake-up of hospital were rejected by the High Court – and costs of over £3,000 were awarded against applicant Kate Godfrey.
But protestors braved thunderstorms and torrential rain to camp out in the hospital grounds in the latest phase of their campaign to prevent the loss of services including maternity, and cuts in A&E opening hours.
They said the protest campaign was a visible reminder to health bosses that the fight was continuing.
Ms Godfrey said she was “devastated” by the High Court’s decision to reject the application for judicial review and to award costs against her.
“I burst into tears when I saw the letter,” she said. “I suddenly feel very intimidated by the whole thing and the precedent it sets is horrendous. People will be unable to challenge decisions affecting their lives if they see costs racking up and up against them as a result.”
Ms Godfrey, who is registered disabled and dependent on anti-seizure medication, said she feared losing her home to meet the legal bill. But she pledged to fight on and challenge both the costs award and the judicial review rejection.
Meanwhile around 100 protestors turned out with tents and camper vans to spend the night outside the hospital.
“We just have to keep fighting,” said Stafford borough councillor Ann Edgeller. “We can’t let maternity and paediatric services leave the hospital. The decision ignores the housing growth that Stafford is expecting, and the growing demand for hospital services.”
She called for cross-party talks at national level on the future of the NHS. “QWe need to get everyone around the table and sorting out the future of the NHS,” said Councillor Edgeller, a Conservative. “This goes beyond party politics. In times of war and national crisis the parties come together and we need to do the same to tackle the crisis in the NHS”.
Support Stafford Hospital campaigner Jo Sutherland, from Stafford, travelled from her holiday home in Wales to join the protest camp. The grandmother of 10 said four of her grandchildren were dependent on the treatment available at Stafford.
“You can’t expect sick kiddies and their families to travel miles and miles in an emergency,” she said.
And borough councillor Chris Baron said one of her constituents had paid £55 in parking charges over a fortnight visiting a sick relative in the University Hospital of North Staffordshire.
“People just can’t afford those kinds of costs,” she said.