Campaign group Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital (F4GH) is urging local people to join the protest march tomorrow (Saturday).
However, there has been some criticism over the parade route advised by police and the county council’s highways department, as it takes the march around the town centre and not through it.
Made up of concerned local residents, the campaign group has organised the march in reaction to a decision by the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) to close Grantham Hospital’s accident and emergency department between the hours of 6.30pm and 9am for at least three months.
The move is in response to staff shortages at its other two main hospitals, Lincoln County and Boston Pilgrim, which it says if not resolved by transferring staff from Grantham will put patient safety at risk.
The march will start at noon on the green outside the Guildhall, on St Peter’s Hill, and set off along St Catherine’s Road, through The Paddock, along the Riverside Walk, through Wyndham Park, crossing over Belton Lane and into Manthorpe Road, gathering outside the entrance to Grantham Hospital. Those who are unable to march are welcome to join protesters at the hospital.
F4GH has said it hopes a further march taking place on October 29, at 11am, will go through the town centre.
The campaign group was set up by Jody Clark, a former residential care worker and carer to her two youngest sons, who have ADHD and autism. She says she created the Facebook group the day after ULHT’s announcement “because I knew I wouldn’t be the only resident angry at the closure at night and wanted to share information and exchange ideas as to how we as a community could make our voices heard by ULHT”.
Within 24 hours the group had grown to over 3,000 people and has continued to rise, reaching over 6,000 members within the first week. As the Journal went to press yesterday, the group had over 7,100 members.
The community has rallied in support, with volunteers donating time and services, organising a website and printing materials and banners, as well as attending protest events and getting signatures on the petitions organised by fellow campaign group SOS Grantham Hospital.
SOS Grantham Hospital has held vigils outside the hospital every Wednesday evening in protest against the overnight closure.
Protesters have told how they are terrified of the possibility they may fall ill at night and need the A&E when it is closed.
Diane Rivers said the hospital saved her brother’s life several months ago. She said he was taken into Grantham Hospital in the early evening and given a blood transfusion at 8pm.
Mrs Rivers added: “They said that if they had not given him that he probably wouldn’t have survived. I feel so passionate about this. It’s just terrifying.”
Jenni Cussell said Grantham A&E often stabilises people, such as those who has suffered a heart attack, before they were moved on to Lincoln. She said: “They are very good at taking care of these people. They need that golden hour and they need to be stabilised.”
Mrs Cussell added: “This is a critical care unit. It looks after people who have broken bones in accidents, but accidents don’t stop at 6.30pm. They have to be taken to Lincoln or elsewhere in an ambulance. That is stretching the service and putting more pressure on Lincoln.”
Dea Vallance said she had diabetes and breathing difficulties. She said: “I have wound up in A&E barely alive. If this should happen to me out of hours they will not be there for me. It’s so scary. The trust should be held accountable.”
Stephen Doll, of Spire View, who has a motorised scooter, said he had suffered two fits one night but did not want to be taken by ambulance to a hospital other than Grantham. He was woken by his warden the next morning and was taken to Grantham by ambulance. He said: “They were fantastic when they brought me here. I am not travelling to another hospital. If I go into a fit and do not come out of it, that’s that.”
Greg Foster, who was collecting signatures for a petition, said the support had been ‘massive’. He said: “The community is really pulling together. The support is growing.”
n Find Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital at tinyurl.com/fighting4granthamhospital