Protest marks 100th week of campaigning to see Chorley A&E reopen full-time

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An eight-year-old chanted ‘Save our A&E’ into a megaphone at the 100th week of demonstrations calling for Chorley’s emergency unit to be reopened full-time.

Zofia Bylinksi Gelder knows full well what having an open A&E at Chorley and South Ribble District General Hospital means.

Her little sister Franniszka, aged six, has often needed treatment from doctors.

She said: “We had to come here when my little sister burned her chest playing with very hot water.

“Also when she had her tonsils taken out and when she was throwing up blood one time.”

It was one of the many stories campaigners had to tell about the difference Chorley A&E had made in their lives as they lined Euxton Lane outside the hospital in the

morning on Saturday.

Protestors have turned out every Saturday since the unit closed in 2016, and this weekend marked the 100th week of protest.

Mick Warwood, 71 from Chorley, spoke of how his friend had his life savedat the A&E.

“He had a triple heart bypass,” said Mick. “He got to Chorley five minutes before it closed and it saved him.”

Jackie Porter, 42 from Clayton Brooke, said: “Chorley A&E saved my life in 2001. I had kidney failure.

“I only had enough money in my purse to get a taxi to Chorley. The doctor told me afterwards that I had been within 30 minutes of a heart attack.”

Danielle Boyd, 12, from Whittle-le-Woods, said: “I’m here because I’ve had to use the A&E before.

“Once when I was on a trampoline and I broke my thumb and the second time I was doing gymnastics and I broke my two fingers.”

Chorley Hospital’s A&E department was shut and downgraded to an urgent care service in April 2016, with bosses blaming staff shortages. Outraged residents came out en masse to protest against the closure.

It was reopened part-time in January 2017 but activists committed to keep up the pressure until the emergency department was opened full-time.

Saturday marked the 100th week of demonstrations outside the A&E by protest group, Protect Chorley & South Ribble District Hospital from Cuts and Privatisation.

During the morning campaigners chanted the slogan ‘When they say cut back, we say fight back’ and banged drums, blew whistles, waved and cheered as passing motorists tooted their support .

About 60 members of the Rivington Barn Bikers also staged a drive-by blaring their horns, holding up traffic and revving their engines in order to show the strength of feeling for the cause. One pensioner was even spotted waving jovially to crowds as he joined the motor bikers at the back of the rally on his mobility scooter.

In a speech to the crowd Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle called on campaigners to continue their fight.

“We are half way there,” he said. “We will not stop until we have it open full-time.

“Our health service belongs to us, not the Government. This is not a toy that you play with, this is about saving lives. Stand together, not just for Chorley but for the future of our NHS.”

Shadow Minister for Health and Social Care Justin Madders made a special trip to be at the demonstration and voiced his support for the tireless campaigners.

“Chorley and the A&E here are really lucky to have you fighting for them,” he said.

“You should take heart from the fact that you have achieved a partial success. The fact that it’s open is down to your hard work.

“It’s absolutely vital that you keep the campaign going.”

Lianne Burrows, 39, a pharmacist from Chorley, says that she came down to the protest because of the effect the closure of the A&E had in her line of work.

She said: “I have seen the extra pressure from people who should be coming to A&E coming to the pharmacist instead.”

But many said that although they were still determined to see the A&E at Chorley reopen on a 24/7 basis, the campaign was also about saving the NHS on a national level.

Jean Sherwood, in her 60s said: “I’m an ex-staff nurse and it breaks my heart to see what’s happening to the NHS.

“ I find it totally unacceptable - the outsourcing just fragments all the services.”

Frank Moss, in his 70s, said: “I don’t like the way the NHS is being broken up and put out to private companies for profit.

“Everyone can see how it’s going down the drain.”

Hilary Warwood, aged 67, from Chorley, said: “I felt that I was getting increasingly concerned about the privatisation of the NHS.

“Politically we were just becoming more and more concerned about what is happening nationally.

“The more you read about the services that are being reduced the more worried you become.

“It’s just terrifying.

“The great majority of people are sleep walking into NHS privatisation.”

MP for South Ribble Seema Kennedy was not in attendance for the demonstration.