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Thursday, 30 October 2014

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Marching for our hospital

CALLS for a public meeting have been made following a hospital services march through Whitehaven.

By Mark White

Copeland MP Jamie Reed said a meeting is now needed to “explain to the public precisely what is happening to hospital services in our area”.

It comes after hundreds of marchers lined the streets during a hospital services protest on Sunday.

Crowds walked with banners to ensure all of the services currently at West Cumberland Hospital remain, and nothing else is transferred to Carlisle or Newcastle.

Mr Reed said: “It was extremely encouraging to see hundreds of people joining this peaceful demonstration to make their voices heard.

“There is profound public concern about the local recruitment crisis – in community care as well as in the West Cumberland Hospital. There’s real anxiety about what services the hospital will provide following acquisition and there’s concern over the pressing need to secure extra investment to complete the hospital new build. There’s no doubt that services have been removed from the West Cumberland Hospital without public consultation.”

The march was organised by Mirehouse mother Siobhan Gearing who heads a Facebook campaign group which has gathered 8,000 signatures on a petition.

Mrs Gearing said: “With this show of support in the form of a march we show that we will not just take losing our services from the hospital. There are services that we have lost from the hospital and although they say these changes are temporary, I don’t believe them.

“I had to have an emergency Caesarean section and they said that I would not have made it if I’d had to go to Carlisle. We can’t allow services to be moved to Carlisle and one of the reasons is some people just won’t be able to afford to get there.”

The marchers walked from the town’s Market Place to Castle Park, heard from speakers including Copeland MP Jamie Reed; former West Cumberland Hospital consultant, Mahesh Dhebar and Christine Wharrier, Hillcrest and Hensingham county councillor.

Mrs Gearing and Ellen Cullen, president of the Cumbria branch of the Royal College of Nursing, also spoke to the crowd. Each speaker was met with rapturous applause and cheers of agreement.

“Our community had a deal, arrived at through the ‘Closer to Home’ process, and this has not been delivered or looks like being delivered,” added Mr Reed. “Patients, the public and medical professionals can accept change, but they can’t accept secrecy and they wont tolerate spin. The next step is for a public meeting in Whitehaven – potentially at the Sports Centre – so that those people in charge of Northumbria and North Cumbria Trusts can explain to the public precisely what is happening to hospital services in our area.

“The message is very clear: we are not going away. We want answers, we want action and we expect the hospital services promised in ‘Closer to Home’.”

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