MPs back hospital protest

Dozens of demonstrators took to the streets in protest against the decision to scrap plans for a hospital in Hatfield and to concentrate acute and emergency services at either Lister or the QEII. And Tory Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS is fall

Dozens of demonstrators took to the streets in protest against the decision to scrap plans for a hospital in Hatfield and to concentrate acute and emergency services at either Lister or the QEII.

And Tory Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the NHS is "falling apart" and "financially driven" when he paid a visit to Lister on Monday.

Barbara Follett, MP for Stevenage, and Oliver Heald, MP for Hertfordshire North East, gave rousing speeches when they addressed the crowd of marchers on Sunday, which included representatives of the Royal College of Nursing and unions Amicus and Unison.

Mr Heald said: "We must fight the cuts and stand up for ourselves in this area because we are being treated unfairly.


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"It's a shambles because we had the Investing in Your Health, it was approved and now it's been scrapped.

"Its just not joined up thinking."

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Mrs Follett said: "I was pleased at how people had decided to protest rather than strike.

"I vowed to do all I could to ensure the Lister keeps its accident and emergency department and as few jobs as possible would be lost."

Speaking about the plan to concentrate acute and emergency services at either Lister or the QEII, Mrs Follett said: "I would like it to be the Lister because of the central location."

The campaigners marched with placards from Stevenage Blind Gardens, off St George's Way, through the town, to Lister, where a demonstration outside the hospital followed.

Protesters' placards were emblazoned with pleas including: "keep nurses working, keep patients safe", "keep the NHS working" and "save our local hospital services".

Over 1000 signatures have so far been collected for a petition asking the Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to intervene in future job losses and cuts.

The petition also asks that the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust's debt, currently estimated to be around £10.5m by the end of the financial year, is wiped out and health bosses are held to account.

The petition will be presented to Tony Blair in January.

The Trust has also been exposed as having the third largest financial deficit across England for 2005/06 - a whopping £22,379 in the red - according to figures released by a national newspaper.

It has been suggested that trying to redress the financial balance by making job cuts and concentrating acute and emergency services at either Lister or the QEII is at the expense of patient care.

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