THE largest protest ever assembled to save services at the Alexandra Hospital gathered in Redditch on Saturday (May 2), to voice their anger at plans to reduce frontline care.
Marchers came from all over the Alex’s catchment area, from Alvechurch, Alcester, Bromsgrove, Studley and further afield as well as Redditch, all voicing the impossibility of travelling to Worcester in cases of life and death.
Police estimated the passionate but good natured 1,000-strong crowd and Neil Stote, chairman of the Save the Alex campaign, said he was delighted with the turn out.
“It just shows how much people care.” he said.
“They cared 30 years ago when the Alex was built, they cared three years ago when these plans for change were first mooted and they care now. It’s a tremendous turnout.”
Plans currently under consideration by NHS England would see major emergencies go to the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, 18 miles away, as well as consultant-led maternity services and overnight paediatric care.
Protester Virginia Brinkworth said she, among many, had raised funds to build the hospital all those years ago.
“It’s our hospital, my friends raised over £1,000 for it to be built and it’s got to have a fully working A&E. It’s too far to go to Worcester, people will die.” she said.
Syliva Grubb agreed: “My husband John had superb care at the Alex. People have to realise it’s not just Redditch that the hospital serves but all the surrounding area too. Worcester is too far away.”
Joan Madkins said the Alex was her designated hospital, despite living in Alvechurch, which is closer to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
“You can’t praise the staff at the Alex enough.” she said, “but I dread the thought of having to go to Worcester. Imagine being taken there by ambulance, people will die on the way.”
Deborah Burrows agreed: “It’s incredibly important that we keep a fully functioning A&E at the Alex.” she said.
“If you have a heart attack or a stroke you’re not going to make it all the way to Worcester. People’s condition will deteriorate on the road and some will die.”
Her friend Annette Smith from Crabbs Cross added: “Can’t these health people see that the Alex serves a huge area and it needs to have all the services for the local population.”
Protesters marched to the bandstand on Church Green where they were addressed by Mr Stote who, referring to difficulties at Worcestershire Royal, brought ringing cheers from the crowd: “I take no pleasure in it but we told them there was no capacity at Worcestershire Royal and we were right with their A&E services collapsing over the winter.” he said.
“The Worcestershire Hospitals NHS Trust has a £25 million deficit, it cannot afford to keep going. Staff are treating patients in corridors, people are dying on trolleys and this is not acceptable health care in this country.
“The Alex is part of the NHS, not a toy for Worcestershire Hospitals NHS Trust to play with.”