NHS campaigners could stage mass protest

HEALTH campaigners may stage a massive countywide protest to let their feelings be known about the axe being wielded to precious hospitals and services.

HEALTH campaigners may stage a massive countywide protest to let their feelings be known about the axe being wielded to precious hospitals and services.

Plans are being drawn up for a march and a rally to take place ahead of this month's meeting which will decide whether or not to reject the cuts and send the matter to Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The idea is to have the march a few days before the meeting - so councillors on the county health scrutiny and overview committee will know the strength of public feeling.

Campaigners plan not just to highlight the proposed closure of Felixstowe's Bartlet Hospital, but also the threat facing Hartismere, the Walnuttree at Sudbury, and mental health services.

Roy Gray, chairman of the Felixstowe Save Our Hospitals action group, said talks were taking place between those leading the campaigns to save the various facilities faced with cuts.

“We are looking at a number of ideas for making our views known because this meeting of the scrutiny committee is vitally important,” said Mr Gray.

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“If the committee accepts the changes the Primary Care Trusts are proposing, that will be a big blow - although we are still looking at possible legal challenges we could make.

“We know several members of the committee have serious concerns and we need them to understand just how the public feels about what is happening.”

Mr Gray said one idea had been to hold separate protests at each of the hospitals and facilities which would be affected by the cuts.

“However, we all think now that holding one big protest march would be best because that would have a greater impact,” he said.

It would need to be held in one of the bigger towns - either Ipswich or Bury St Edmunds, where the meeting will take place on February 28.

If the scrutiny committee decides the recent Changing for the Better consultation exercise was flawed, it can refer the matter back to the secretary of state. Ms Hewitt could then order the whole process to be carried out again.

Campaigners believe the consultation was wrong because it failed to give patients any choice.

Are you worried about the changes? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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