STAFFORD residents should get ready to turn out on the streets for another march to defend the town’s hospital, a civic leader is warning.
It may take another mass protest to get NHS bosses to take people’s concerns about the future of hospital services seriously, Stafford Borough Council leader Mike Heenan says.
Councillor Heenan has already set legal moves going to challenge any formal decision to move consultant-led maternity services out of Stafford. And he is due to meet the leaders of the other political groups on the council tomorrow, Friday, to discuss a cross-party campaign on the issue.
Councillor Heenan said he was “very worried, concerned and angry” that news of a potential move of maternity services to Stoke from January 16 leaked out in a briefing to maternity staff last week - although according to UHNS bosses no formal decision had yet been made.
He said he felt the council was being “fobbed off” by UHNS and called for clear information on the future of services.
“We are not getting a fair deal and this is a most unsatisfactory situation for Stafford,” Councillor Heenan said.
“We may have to ask the people of Stafford, once again, to show their views on this on the streets.”
He also called for transparency from NHS bosses on where money was being spent, the costs of moving services, and whether changes represented value for money, as well as clearer communication.
“We seem to lurch from one announcement, or partial announcement to another, but we need to see a clear plan for the future, not be left in a black hole,” Councillor Heenan said. “I want to see the full facts on why they are moving maternity out of Stafford, and involving mothers in travelling longer distances when the service could stay in Stafford.
“And it is crazy to even think of moving it before the review we have been promised by NHS England.”
Meanwhile Support Stafford Hospital campaigners say evidence is mounting that moving hospital services out of Stafford would put lives at risk - and that other hospitals would buckle under the strain of extra patients.
They say that increased A&E waiting times at UHNS show it is not up to the task of taking on yet more patients from the Stafford area.
And they are also highlighting international research showing a link between mother and baby deaths and the length of expectant mums’ journey times to hospital.
Campaigner Cheryl Porter said pressures at UHNS illustrated the case for having a wide range of services across all hospitals, rather than concentrating them all in specialist centres.
“All of these changes are being made without a proper risk assessment,” she said. “They need to start again, look at the risks, look at the medical evidence and be big enough to admit they have made a mistake.”
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy called for much clearer communication from UHNS on its plans for Stafford.