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Protesters attend rally organised by SaveWycombeHospital campaign group

| October 25, 2016
Picture credit: Feather Forever Photography.

Picture credit: Feather Forever Photography.

It has been more than 10 years since downgrades began at Wycombe Hospital, however on Saturday 22nd October 2016 dozens of locals gathered at a protest rally in High Wycombe town centre.

People from across the community, including politicians, were reunited under the banner ‘Hand Back Our Hospital’ to show support for the Save Wycombe Hospital campaign and called for downgrades to stop and services including A&E and full maternity restored.

At the protect rally there were some prepared speeches while others were also given the opportunity to express their reasons for attending. Passionate voices were heard, staff were praised and patient experiences were shared.

One month ahead of the Government’s autumn statement, campaign leader Miss Ozma Hafiz called for the protest to show that our NHS is a priority.

Miss Ozma Hafiz said: ‘Decisions are being made under ‘Sustainability and Transformation plans’ which could see us losing more.

Decisions about us really shouldn’t be made without us. However my Freedom of Information request asking for a copy of our local STP plan was rejected.

The NHS is being forced to make £22 billion worth of efficiency savings, despite being the most cost-effective, efficient health service in the world (Independent Commonwealth fund report) and we are below the OECD average in terms of health spending, spending less of our GDP on health than our neighbours. I truly hope I and others are wrong, but locally, over the next few years, it is believed this will result in losses of services from other local hospitals including Reading and Stoke Mandeville.

Horton hospital in Banbury, which has also been grouped in within our STP ‘footprint’ has recently lost Dr-led births to Oxford and we recently lost carotid surgery to Oxford too (without the expected public consultation). It’s almost as though the so-called ‘super’ hospital concept has reared its ugly head again.

Stick the words ‘super’ or ‘centre of excellence’ in and the public are meant to believe that it’s better for us. However with carotid surgery, there was clear local evidence that the operations had good/better outcomes here and a successful rotation between Wycombe and Oxford was ignored. (There are dissertations to be had with the issues with this).

Now some of the sickest, most vulnerable patients are having to endure extra travelling and potentially additional recovery time, due to this move. This will impact their loved ones too, many who will have to take additional time off work or have their own health issues. There are fears for staff morale, I’m told our Dr-led births were one of the best in the country and we lost excellent staff when mergers with Stoke Mandeville were announced.

Miss Hafiz said: ‘Whilst there may be some good things in our local STP plan, it’s hard to know with it being hidden from us. I think we can expect to see other losses locally. Lynton House Surgery was saved (for now) however over the next five years, if we continue down this path, we can expect to see GP closures and selling of land due to under-funding.

Patients need ‘safe’ places. They need easily accessible, familiar GP surgeries they can potter in to, not big, far away monsters with intimidating long corridors. They need easily accessible, familiar local pharmacies. They need a fully functioning hospital restored to Queen Alexandra road. There is a place for tertiary centres, but lines have been crossed. We don’t send every poorly child to Great Ormond street, District General hospitals have a role and local care is important.

The latest response we have received from the Department of Health disappointingly appears to give no weight to a report by local Healthwatch which states that the stress, anxiety and cost associated with getting to appointments has become a major issue.

Our other points including potential disruption caused by HS2 construction, flooding along the route to Stoke Mandeville and the fire at Stoke (which whilst dealt with quickly, demonstrates another flaw in mass centralisation) were also seemingly ignored.

The campaign continues to receive support from across the political spectrum. It’s important that we continue to make a stand. Not only for our sake, but the other hospitals up and down the country that are fast following suit. The fact that we are campaigning 10 years on from when downgrades began should speak volumes. Imagine if concerns about staffing levels had been truly championed by Bucks NHS back then. It’s not too late for us to change the direction that the NHS is headed, if we act now.

At the event there was also a table with resources from Pancreatic Cancer Action ahead of the West Wycombe Mausoleum turning purple in November to raise awareness for this disease.

A big thank you to everyone who helped with the protest event on Saturday and has supported the campaign thus far. A main aim was to get more of your voices heard. I’m encouraged by comments we’ve received about ‘next time’.

With Wycombe hospital being one of the first to face downgrades, it began to feel like we were being pointed at whilst other hospitals fast follow suit in losing key departments. We have, and must continue to say ‘not in our name.’

The SaveWycombeHospital petition remains live as https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/fair-funding-for-buckinghamshire. SaveWycombeHospital are continuing to invite people to help raise the profile of the campaign by displaying a poster in their windows (www.savewycombehospital.com) and submitting pictures with their hand in the ‘stop’ position as part of the picture protest #HandsUpForAHandBack. These can be as individuals, small or large groups. The hand campaign is about zooming out and uniting the community and not aimed at anyone in particular. People are also encouraged to ask questions and attend local meetings, as well as fill in the Trust’s latest survey with answers expressing that they believe in District General Hospitals and local, easily accessible GP surgeries: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/bucks-consultation.

Further information on the SaveWycombeHospital campaign can be found at the following :

Email : savewycombehospital@live.co.uk
Tweet : @HandBackOurHosp
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/groups/savewycombehospital/
Webpage : www.savewycombehospital.com

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