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25 May 2012
'Save Heatherwood Hospital' campaign yielding results
A partial victory has been won by campaigners fighting to keep Heatherwood hospital open, writes Terry Pearce, the chair of Defend Our Community Services.
He adds: "While there are more questions than answers, by mobilising public opinion we have forced the local NHS bosses to rethink their plan to close the hospital.
"Twelve months ago it was planned to close the hospital and sell the land off. With 20,000 names on our petition and following a series of marches, meetings, lobbies, etc, we have won round one.
"The fight continues to ensure that we have a NHS hospital on the site, with no PFI, privatisation or part privatisation.
Extracts from a press release issued by the Save Heatherwood Hospital (SHH) combined campaign group on 22 May 2012:
The Save Heatherwood Hospital (SHH) combined campaign group acknowledges the firm announcement that "NHS Services will continue to be provided at Heatherwood Hospital for many years to come", which was made last week by the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals' NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Berkshire.
However, the community groups fully recognise that many questions still remain over the future development of the Heatherwood hospital site.
Terry Pearce, Chairman of Defend Our Community Services (DOCS) said: "Members of Defend Our Community Services are pleased that the local NHS bosses have listened to public opinion and agreed with us that Heatherwood hospital should not close.
"For 12 months or so, DOCS, along with others in the Save Heatherwood Hospital (SHH) campaign, have been fighting to save the hospital from closure - therefore this news is welcome.
"We must say, however, that there are many questions left unanswered, including: Will the hospital be a fully fledged NHS hospital or a partially/fully privatised hospital? Will there still be a Minor Injuries Unit at Heatherwood? Regarding the Birth Centre, will there be a genuine consultation in the autumn or has it already been decided to close it permanently? Who are the partners that the Trust is talking to - are they private partners? Until these questions are answered DOCS will continue the campaign, as we are committed to a fully fledged NHS hospital, no PFI, with a Minor Injuries Unit, Birth Centre and properly resourced facilities suitable for a growing and ageing local community".
Margery Thorogood, from Windsor and Slough Against the Cuts (WASAC), agreed that the news from the Trust and NHS Berkshire is to be welcomed and added: "However, local people will be anxious to know what shape and form the hospital will take. To what extent will its services be maintained? Will the Birth Centre reopen? Will the hospital remain fully NHS?
"Will the much needed refurbishment allow for the hospital's historic features to be retained? Will more land be sold off to fund any changes? WASAC awaits the final proposals with interest and will engage actively when the public consultation begins. The campaign continues".
There will be the opportunity for members of the public to offer their views in June and July, say the two NHS organisations.
This will then be followed by a public consultation over proposed specific service changes in the autumn.
Spike Humphrey, from Ascot Community Action Group (ACAG) for Heatherwood commented: "The Trust has acknowledged that public opinion is overwhelmingly against closing Heatherwood and they have bowed to the wishes of the public on this point.
"We thank everyone who has shown their support by signing the petition and attending public meetings and marches.
"Making our collective voices heard (rather than meetings 'behind closed doors') is by far the most effective way we have to ensure healthcare provision matches local need".
SHH's website address: www.saveheatherwoodhospital.org.uk.
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