A sea of people will flood through Grantham’s town centre on Saturday in a second protest against the night-time closure of Grantham’s A&E.
Around 4,000 people – possibly significantly more – are expected to join the protest march organised by SOS Grantham Hospital, following the march held in September by Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital (F4GH).
Following disagreements between the two campaign groups through social media over the weekend, both say they have put their differences aside to focus on presenting a united front to United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT).
To illustrate this, representatives from each, Melissa Darcey for F4GH and Councillor Charmaine Morgan for SOS, came together and linked arms on St Peter’s Hill this week, the starting point of tomorrow’s march.
Coun Morgan, SOS chairman, said: “It’s really important that people come and join the march to show the strength of feeling of our whole community about the night-time closure of Grantham’s A&E.
“120,000 people, numerous business and four towns – Grantham, Sleaford, Newark and Melton Mowbray – are all within the catchment area of the hospital. It is vital that this A&E service is retained, in particular resuscitation. It’s critical.”
Asked what she would say to the people of Grantham, Melissa, 25, said: “Be there. It’s time to show that people power can win.
“We’re going to march together and create a big impact. So many people feel passionately about the cause.”
Both campaign groups have carried out their own fund-raising and awareness activities since the emergency department was closed between 6.30pm and 9am daily by ULHT. It began on August 17 due to staff shortages at its other two hospitals, Lincoln County and Boston Pilgrim, claiming it would improve patient safety county-wide. It is initially a three-month closure period – but ULHT bosses have refused to confirm whether the unit will reopen fully on November 17.
Despite their differences, the protest march is one objective the campaign groups share and feel passionate about. Melissa said: “From the start, we have been united for the cause – lots of people are passionate about it.”
Sadly, Grantham MP Nick Boles will be unable to join tomorrow’s march as he has been diagnosed with a cancer of the head. However, he gave thanks to those taking part and urged people to “keep it up”.
He added: “Over the past couple of weeks, I arranged and attended a meeting between with members of F4GH and Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary. I also held a meeting with representatives from NHS Improvements who oversee United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT). In both meetings I was reassured that the NHS hierarchy does want Grantham A&E to re-open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that the only stumbling block is the recruitment of sufficient medical staff.
“I have also been receiving regular updates on the progress to date by ULHT and their senior management team. I will continue to put pressure on ULHT to recruit enough new doctors to restore 24/7 services at Grantham Hospital.”
** To sign a petition calling for A&E to be fully restored, which already has over 30,000 signatures, visit tinyurl.com/savegranthama-e
**WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE MARCH
Protesters are to gather on the green in St Peter’s Hill by 11am on Saturday. At 11am, Coun Morgan will give a short safety briefing. The march will begin at 11.05am. Crowds are asked to wait until the march is led with campaigners at the front. The route is along the High Street, Watergate, Brook Street (cutting out the one-way system) and along Manthorpe Road to the front of the hospital. A rally with several speakers will take place in front of the old, boarded up part of the hospital.
*Anyone willing to volunteer their services as a marshal for the event is asked to contact Coun Morgan on 07398 156296.
*A cut-out poster will be printed on page 18 of tomorrow’s Journal for anyone who wants to place it in their window or cut it out to mount on a board as a protest sign for the march.