Around 1,500 angry health campaigners and health workers challenged plans to cut services at Stafford Hospital at a public meeting last week.
The Trust Special Administrators (TSAs) plan to cut maternity, children’s and critical care services claiming they are “financially unsustainable” and will become unsafe.
Cheryl Porter, one of the founders and organisers of the Support Stafford Hospital campaign, spoke to Socialist Worker.
“These proposals are all about money,” she said. “There’s no reason to downgrade or close maternity paediatrics or an Intensive Care Unit. Lots of these decisions just don’t make sense.
“In the 60 days before the proposals came out the TSAs didn’t even visit the wards or talk to the teams they plan to cut.”
The TSAs claim they are only following recommendations from top medical specialists at the Royal Colleges.
But those recommendations are based on information from the TSAs themselves, not staff or patients.
Campaigners fear the TSAs want huge “super hospitals” where patients will have to travel many miles to Stoke or Wolverhampton.
“They weren’t ready for this turnout,” said Cheryl, “but they knew this would be where we could get our voices heard.
“Now the proposals are out the fight starts again. We’re not against change but the GP Clinical Commissioning Groups don’t even want to commission services at Stafford.
“They said if the A&E were to reopen overnight they wouldn’t fund it—it’s all about money not safety.”
The maternity unit in Stafford Hospital was always safe.
Some women chose to give birth at other hospitals after the publicity of the 2005-2008 crisis in care and so-called “excess deaths” at Stafford.
But the TSAs argue that too few babies are being born at Stafford for it to remain safe. Yet the numbers of women choosing to give birth at Stafford is rising again.
And Stafford’s population is growing. The ministry of defence is building housing for around 450 young army families expected to move in soon.
Stoke Hospital already delivers 6,000 babies a year and this is expected to go up to 10,000.
Cheryl explained, “Women giving birth in Stoke will still have their antenatal care in Stafford and so they won’t know the staff.
“And though it has asked for more money, Stoke already closes its doors when full and sends women to Wolverhampton.”
More meetings and lobbying are planned, and the campaign is working towards a conference at the end of September.
The Support Stafford Hospital Campaign has support from all political parties in the area and it organised the huge demo of 30,000 in April this year.
As Cheryl said, “We work with everyone who wants to save our services.
“But we are going to the national demonstration on Sunday 29 September because we understand this is a national problem.
“It will be moving on to the next 50 general hospitals.”