Hundreds of protestors took to the streets of Louth at the weekend in support of the NHS - and to voice their opposition to any potential threat of downgrading or closure of the town’s hospital.
An enthusiastic crowd of more than 300 people gathered at Westgate Fields on Saturday afternoon for the self-titled ‘NHS Uprising’, which was dubbed the first protest march in Louth since the Lincolnshire Rising took place in October 1536.
They set off towards the town centre, ending at Louth County Hospital.
The march was headed by the PCS Samba band and a group of belly-dancers, who kept the carnival spirit in full flow, and turned plenty of heads along the way.
Speaking immediately after the march, Julie Speed, the founder of the ‘Fighting 4 Louth Hospital’ campaign, said: “It was incredible. The turnout has just been tremendous, and the atmosphere was carnival as we expected.
“The reception of the people on the streets as we passed was wonderful.
“I think that this will reach all the way to Westminster.
“It was one of those things, like the many other cuts, that would have gone through very quietly. I have no doubt this would have done the same.
“But with the noise our campaign has made, that is becoming a very difficult option for them to look at now.
“It’s important that we voiced our protest to it before they set the decision in stone.
“I believe that this march and our campaign overall will have made an impact.”
Julie was just one one of several speakers who addressed the crowd after the march, including Melissa Darcey and Frank Slater from the ‘Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire’ campaign; former nurse and cancer survivor Sarah Stock; Joanne Land from the national ‘999 Call For The NHS’ campaign; and Lincoln Lib Dem politician Caroline Kenyon.
Julie thanked everyone who had been involved, and told the crowd: “We will stand and fight for it.
“It was, and should still be, a fully functioning general hospital for the people of Louth, and all the surrounding villages who rely on it heavily.”
Louth MP Victoria Atkins hit out at the march and accused organisers of ‘scaremongering’ about the future of the hospital.
She stressed she - a nd other MPs - were working ‘tirelessly’ to boost all NHS services for residents in the region.
The ‘Fighting 4 Louth Hospital’ campaign was set up after the publication of the Lincolnshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), which was released by Lincolnshire Health and Care last December.
The document has raised eyebrows with its apparent reference to the possibility of Louth’s hospital being closed, or downgraded. The report highlighted the need for ‘re-provision of community facilities at Louth and Skegness with a single site’, leading to fears that Louth’s Hospital could end up being closed in favour of Skegness Hospital - or a new hospital elsewhere.
A public consultation was promised ahead of any final decision on matters included in the STP, although the first round of consultation in January will reportedly not include any decisions on the future of the two hospitals.