STAFFORD Hospital’s protest camp could be the start of a new national movement to raise concerns about controversial NHS changes, organisers say.
“It looks like we can go forward to join up all these groups nationally, therefore become a larger and stronger force in the fight to save services at all local hospitals,” Support Stafford Hospital campaigner Cheryl Porter said after a successful weekend event that brought campaigners together from across the country at Stafford.
“The campers and protesters are trying to highlight nationally what is happening to acute services in Stafford because this is happening and will continue to happen across the country.”
And she gave a warning to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt that grassroots groups wanted a say in what was happening to their hospitals and other health facilities.
“More gatherings and communication between us are being organised,” Mrs Porter said
“Watch this space - and watch out Mr Hunt.”
The protest camp welcomed groups from Doncaster, High Wycombe, Leeds, Lewisham, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Redditch and York among others.
Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy also visited to show his support for the campaign. He said there were “continuing concerns” about whether hospital services could be transferred to other health trusts.
He said another meeting was planed with the Heath Secretary and he was also meeting senior managers at the North Staffordshire trust regularly.
Meanwhile local campaigners said support for the campaign to keep pervices such as maternity and paediatrics in Stafford was growing, with the camp providing a focal point.
Mother-of-two Andrea Barker-Hall said that when she had a medical emergency at night with her daughter Kyla, 3, she was told to take her to Cannock Hospital because Stafford A&E was closed.
“I am visually impaired and can’t drive so I had to take a taxi - and it cost me £50,” said Ms Barker-Hall, 24, of Newport Road, Stafford.
“The costs and delays for families will be horrendous if services move out of Stafford.
“I had both my children here, and the staff were wonderful and so supportive.”
And Simon Reeves, one of the barbecue chefs for the special weekend, said the plan to scale back Stafford services were “a recipe for disaster”.
“They are rushing changes through without thinking about the consequences and comon sense has gone out of the window,” said Mr Reeves, 55, from Parkside.
Ice cream seller Zara Taylor, of Stafford’s Tony’s Ices, has been arriving at the camp every day to give the youngest campers free ice lollies.
“We are a local family business and we think it is important to support our hospital,” she said.