On Tuesday 9th January 2018 campaigners took to the steps of Shire Hall in Gloucester to demand that NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group and Gloucestershire Care Services NHS Trust scrap their plans to close two community hospitals and replace them with one single, smaller, new hospital after 46% of consultation responses oppose the “preferred option” and 12% of respondents did not know.
At 9am, protesters assembled on the steps of the County Council Offices at Shire Hall in Gloucester to demand that the NHS respect the will of the people and scrap their plans to push forward their ‘preferred option’ of closing two community hospitals and replacing them with one. This comes after the report on the outcome of the public consultation was published on Monday revealing that 58% of respondents were either against the proposals or were not sure.
Zac Arnold, one of the protests organisers, said “The consultation carried out has delivered a clear message, the people of the Forest of Dean are not convinced by the picture of a shiny new hospital as it is portrayed by GCCG and GCS. The Forest has stood up time and time again and we will continue to fight until the NHS takes public feedback on-board and scraps their proposals to close our hospitals.”
The protest concluded at 10am when the campaigners entered the council chamber to hear the outcome of the consultation as it was presented to the Health and Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Once the meeting had concluded campaigners reflected with anger and disappointment as the committee decided to vote in favour of declaring the consultation ‘adequate.’
Arnold said “This is a disappointing result as the consultation process was clearly flawed in many ways. Just to name one example, if you look at the original consultation booklet and compare it to the easy read version, the questions in places are completely different. As far as I am concerned, the committee has completely failed in it’s duty today by accepting an incredibly inadequate consultation as adequate.”
The example of the differing questions is just one of many flaws, another example is the blatantly misleading content of some parts of the document. The booklet claims that a new facility will improve the recruitment and retention of staff, however, according to the NHS’ own figures, Tewksbury Community Hospital (a new hospital) has significantly worse levels of recruitment and retention than the Dilke Memorial Hospital.
Owen Adams, another one of the protests organisers said “The majority of people have said ‘no’ to the proposal to close the hospitals, so we will be demanding that the CCG and the NHS Trust listens to the people. We demand instead that the £11 million earmarked for the building of a new hospital is invested in the two current sites.”
This protest was just the first part of a day of protest organised by the HOLD (Hands Off Lydney and Dilke hospitals) Campaign who held a second demonstration outside the Full Council meeting of Cinderford Town Council in the evening to express their concern at the council’s decision to back the NHS’ preferred option in the consultation.