Hospital campaigners set to mark two-year anniversary

Sussex Defend the NHS campaigners at an NHS Coastal West Sussex meeting in July
Sussex Defend the NHS campaigners at an NHS Coastal West Sussex meeting in July

ALMOST two years to the day since a public meeting to save Southlands Hospital, campaigners are planning a demonstration in Shoreham.

Sussex Defend the NHS will be outside the Ropetackle Arts Centre on Friday, before the Question Time-style event, Tackle the Issues.

Campaigner Steve Guy, of Southview Road, Southwick, said they wanted to mark the anniversary with a display of banners and boards, to ‘keep the flag flying’.

The group also wants to draw attention to links to clause 118, which secretary of state Jeremy Hunt added to the Health and Social Care Act, to enable an administrator to recommend the closure, or downgrading, of any other hospital near a ‘failing’ trust.

A review of hospital services in 2011 by the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust and NHS Sussex attracted huge support for retaining Southlands as a hospital.

Mr Guy recalled that trust chief executive Marianne Griffiths and East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton attended a meeting on February 2, 2012, called by Save Southlands campaigners.

“Such was the strength of feeling about the future of the hospital that Mr Loughton was forced to ask Ms Griffiths to re-think her plans for the disposing of the hospital,” he said.

“Yet, here we are two years on and the trust has announced they have no further use for the bulk of the site and are putting the land, and the centrepiece of the site, the Harness Block, up for sale on the open market, a ripe plum for the plucking by the likes of developers Crest Nicholson, who have been patiently waiting for such an opportunity.”

Nevertheless, the fight to retain Southlands as a hospital continues, he added.

Sussex Defend the NHS is also raising concerns about the future of the NHS under new measures introduced under the Health and Social Care Act last year.

Mr Guy said: “I believe it will be a completely different healthcare system in five years time – one which will be much worse in terms of access, equity, health outcomes and cost.”

He believes clause 118 will mean hospitals could be closed without any real consultation and that the wishes of clinicians, service workers, or service users could be ignored.

Tackle the Issues, which starts at 7.30pm, will be a topical debate with a panel that includes Mr Loughton and political commentators.