Chorley A&E protest goes to heart of parliament

The Chorley A&E protest in London
The Chorley A&E protest in London
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For 26 weeks, campaigners have raised their placards outside Chorley Hospital to fight for the reopening of the centre’s A&E.

And yesterday, the group was in full voice as it took its fight to Westminster.

Two coaches carrying 80 protesters left the town for the Houses of Parliament, where the Protect Chorley Hospital against Cuts and Privatisation group lobbied MPs to reopen the unit 24 hours a day.

A sea of yellow campaign tee-shirts filled a Westminster cabinet room, as the group lobbied politicians in a heated meeting to support their fight to reopen Chorley A&E full-time.

Andrew Birchall, one of the organisers of the protest, said: “We want to challenge the politicians to see if they will put pressure on in London to reinstate our A&E for 24 hours and make sure we don’t get any other services privatised.

“We asked Jeremy Hunt to meet us, but he’s too busy. So Lindsay Hoyle has contacted all the other MPs where it is impacting and he’s asked them to come to the lobby to hear our story, to put the pressure on in Parliament to get our A&E reinstated 24 hours a day.

“It’s an essential, lifesaving service that we might not use but we know is there.”

The 80 campaigners were met by MPs from across the north west, as well as Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley and union representatives.

There was cheering and stamping as campaign organiser Steve Turner addressed the meeting.

He said it was “not good enough” to have no A&E, and said: “As far as I’m concerned, clearly we want a 24-hour A&E, that’s what we’re fighting for.”

Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle questioned the pledge that the department would reopen at the beginning of next year, and said: “If you’re telling me they can run it in January, why can’t they do it now?”

He added: “What makes you think, if you can’t recruit the staff now outwith the winter crisis, what makes you think the staff will appear magically in January?”

The campaign group was offered solidarity from Unite representatives, Wood Green MP Catherine West, and Chester MP Chris Matheson, with north west MPs addressing the room.

Burnley MP Julie Cooper said: “I’m here to offer my 100 per cent support, we see every week the pressure on our neighbouring Blackburn hospital.

“ People from Burnley are now standing in line at Blackburn with people from Chorley.

“Having done a night shift lately in Blackburn, I know what they are up against.”

South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy came under fire for not attending campaigns outside the hospital, but said she had been working hard behind the scenes.

She said: “Chorley and South Ribble are growing areas with growing populations, there are pressures.

“ We feel we’ve come second to services in Preston.

“The good news to welcome is we are having an extended opening.

“ What I don’t understand is they are saying the A&E is ready to open now 8am to 8pm, but we are not doing it until January.

“We keep asking these questions, we need to keep up the pressure, because it makes absolutely no sense.”

Bolton North East MP David Crausby offered “absolute support” to the campaign, and Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: “I’m proud of Chorley, but I think we need campaigns across Lancashire. The situation is dire.”

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said: “The one thing we’ve found through this campaign is we know we have 100 per cent solidarity with the people of Chorley.”

Campaigners joined with groups outside the Houses of Parliament to chant and sing and raise banners in protest.

Andrew Birchall, one of the campaign organisers, said: “We made our point, we showed how strong we are.

“ It was very successful as far as that went.

“About getting our A&E reinstated, I think that fight still goes on.” Protesters agreed the campaign had brought together the community, and Andrew said: “A nicer group of people you would never meet in your life.

“ I didn’t know these people 26 years ago, and I’ve now got all these friends.”