Southern Daily Echo – 9 September 2005
People in the Romsey area and other parts of South-West Hampshire are being urged to turn out on Monday at a major rally objecting to the closure of community hospital. The Eastleigh and Lower Test Valley Primary Care Trust and the New Forest PCT are considering options which could mean the closure of beds at up to five hospitals.
The three under the greatest threat are the Fenwick (Lyndhurst), Milford-on-Sea and Hythe but the closures of Romsey and Fordingbridge have not been ruled out.
An umbrella group with the title Save Our Community Hospitals – which is headed by MPs Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Desmond Swayne (New Forest West) and Sandra Gidley (Romsey) and delegates of the various Leagues of Friends – has been set up. And it is organising a rally at Boltons Bench at Lyndhurst on Monday (7pm) which it says
"is intended to leave no doubt that the community wishes in-patient beds to be kept in all five community hospitals which are currently under threat from plans drawn up by the Primary Care Trusts."
Because of the large numbers likely to attend the rally, parking has been arranged by permission of the New Forest Show Committee at the New Park showground just off the A337 South of Lyndhurst. Buses will be available from 6pm to shuttle people to Bolton's Bench and back later.
A limited number of marchers will be making a symbolic journey by foot from the Fenwick Hospital, which currently has its beds closed, between 6pm and 7pm. But members of the public are asked to go straight to Bolton's Bench in line with police advice on numbers marching because of the traffic situation on the route of the march.
In urging as many people as possible to attend Doctor Lewis said:
"The PCT is obliged by law to hold a consultation exercise on its proposals to close these hospital beds.
"This rally is a vital part of that process so there can by no excuse for anyone to claim that the community is not entirely opposed to bed closure plans.
"If you care about the future of your local hospital network which was described as 'the Jewels in the Crown' by the former Community Health Services Trust, which ran local health care before the PCT, this is your chance to show it."
Romsey Hospital League of Friends spokesperson Jean Denham stressed that there is very strong opposition in the town to any thought of closure which had been highlighted by the large numbers of people signing the petition against the loss of beds. Those petition sheets are now due to be collected and Mrs Denham added:
"Hundreds upon hundreds of signatures have been collected in Romsey and there will also be a lot of people going from the town to the rally with some on a special bus.
"As far as we are concerned Romsey Hospital is one of those under threat and we will continue our campaign to keep it open."
Placards and banners are being prepared for the rally but those taking part are also being encouraged to take their own to add as much colour as possible to the event.