A march through Grantham to protest against the night-time closure and downgrading of the town’s A&E and other hospital services will take place next weekend.
Campaign group Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire has organised the march, with people urged to gather on St Peter’s Hill for 12.30pm on Saturday, October 14.
Organisers say the crowd will make its way along High Street, Watergate, Brook Street and Manthorpe Road to the sensory garden in Wyndham Park, where there will be a rally with speakers beginning at 1.45pm.
People taking part are being asked to wear or carry something red to show solidarity.
Among the speakers on the day will be Paul Lewis, who is a former Grantham A&E senior charge nurse and a popular speaker at previous marches in the town. Also taking to the podium will be Steven Carne, of 999 Call for the NHS, and Tracey Harrison, a campaigner from Unison and Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, among others.
Grantham A&E was closed overnight from August 17 last year.
It is now open from 8am to 6.30pm every day.
Melissa Darcey, of Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, said three public meetings hosted by the group had shown support for the march.
She added: “We will march and protest against the night-time closure of Grantham A&E and the systematic downgrading of services in our local hospital.
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“We will also protest against the Sustainability and Transformations Plans (STP) which have now become partnerships. These partnerships will see our NHS reduced where we will no longer be able to access healthcare as we did before.”
This will be the fourth protest march in Grantham since the closure of the A&E unit overnight. Campaign groups SOS Grantham Hospital and Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital have organised previous marches.
Ms Darcey (pictured) added: “We will accept nothing less than a 24-hour, level one A&E. No downgrades. No reduced hours. And an end to STPs.
“The message is that we have stuck a spanner in the works and have halted their plans. If it wasn’t for the fact we have fought against this, the A&E would have been downgraded last year. People power can change this and if we stay strong we can change things.
“People definitely want this march. Everybody is welcome to come along.”
The march is being called ‘NHS Uprising Grantham’. The town is the third to receive the NHS Uprising Banner by artist Jayne Cooper, following marches in Louth against the possible closure of its hospital and in Lincoln, where the walk-in centre is marked for closure.
Charmaine Morgan, chairman of SOS Grantham Hospital and a Labour district councillor, said her campaign group supports the march and will have a stand on the day. Leaflets will be handed out calling for an end to the Health and Social Care Act, which the Labour Party claims “puts profits before patients”.
Coun Morgan said: “Our leaflets will be explaining why the Act is so important and asking people to write to their MP and councillors calling for them to support the campaign to get the Act repealed. I am extremely concerned that the current circumstances will enable a private organisation to step in and take on our hospital trust, as is happening elsewhere.”
The group hopes to take its petition against the downgrading of Grantham A&E to Downing Street in November. Coun Morgan said there could be more than 60,000 signatures on the petition.
In contrast, Jody Clark, of Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital, said her group would not be taking part in the march. In a statement on its Facebook page, the group said: “With an extension of hours for winter on the cards and a longer term solution (subject to public consultation) being sought, we don’t really see the need to protest now.
“We will not get an urgent care centre, our A&E will get an extension of hours and we will have a public meeting with providers when public consultation is announced and you can all come and ask them what is on offer.”
For further details on the latest on the march, email Fighting4lifelincolnshire@outlook.com or search for the group on Facebook or Twitter – @F4LifeLincs.