There was an incredible atmosphere in Grantham this afternoon (Saturday) as around 3,000 people marched in protest against the night-time closure of the town’s A&E.
Determined not to be shepherded along the riverside route as advised by local authorities, the majority of protesters surged through the town centre.
Police officers were quick to halt traffic as the crowds walked – in the pouring rain – into the road, along High Street, Watergate, Brook Street and Manthorpe Road, chanting: “No ifs, no buts, no A&E cuts”.
The march came to a halt at the entrance to Grantham Hospital, where another group of protesters waited with their placards.
It was organised by campaign group Fighting 4 Grantham Hospital, led by campaign head Jody Clark.
Jody, a mother-of-two from Ropsley, told the Journal: “I think it’s been absolutely fantastic. I certainly wasn’t expecting such a great turnout, especially with the weather being as it is.
“It’s fantastic that everyone came out in support.”
Asked what she feels the turnout of around 3,000 shows, she said: “I think it speaks for itself, that no one wants our A&E service reduced; there’s a great need for it in our community and we’re not going to be happy until [ULHT] has reinstated our service.”
Protesters from Grantham and the surrounding villages voiced their anger to the Journal over the closure of A&E at night. Claire Morton, of Harlaxton, said of the protest: “It’s absolutely fantastic. I hope that the people are listened to and they keep the A&E open.”
Keith and Fiona Vaughan, of Barrowby, told the Journal their young daughter injured her hand recently but they realised they could not take her to Grantham A&E because it would shut in 15 minutes. They took her to QMC in Nottingham. Fiona said of the situation: “It’s shocking. We have a a good A&E service right here. It could have been anybody’s daughter. I think the turnout is fantastic. It is positive direct action and a peaceful protest.”
Mr Vaughan added: “It just goes to show how much it means to people.”
Another protester, who did not wish to be named, said: “I am very pleased. I think it’s important that the hospital stays open. One of my grandchildren was taken there and had to be stabilised. The distance to other hospitals is too much.”
Graham Smith, of Grantham, said: “We are pleased to see so many people support it. It’s an excellent turnout.”
The hospital is situated in the ward of district councillor Ray Wootten. He told the Journal: “I am overwhelmed by the turnout. I am very pleased Grantham people have supported the protest and we look forward to continuing the campaign until they keep A&E open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Mayor of Grantham Coun Linda Wootten said: “What a brilliant turnout. I hope this keeps the pressure on the board and they listen to the people and learn that they are passionate about their hospital.”
Once all protesters had arrived, speeches were given by Jody, Grantham MP Nick Boles, Councillors Ian Selby and Charmaine Morgan and Unison regional officer Gary Freeman.