By Ian Dipple 04/08 Updated: 04/08 18:00
MORE than 1,000 people marched through the centre of Redditch to show their opposition to plans to close A&E and maternity services at the Alexandra Hospital.
Led by Bromsgrove based Samba band Somebody At The Door, the procession, which included people of all ages, made its way from the Town Hall to the bandstand area where the crowd was addressed by a number of key speakers.
Neal Stote, head of the Save the Alex campaign group which organised the event, told supporters the turnout had sent a clear message to Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust people were not prepared to accept the downgrading of their hospital.
Redditch MP Karen Lumley also revealed the health minister has agreed to meet with her, other MPs in the area, leaders from Redditch, Bromsgrove and Stratford councils as well as members of the campaign group.
She added she had already proven she wasn't afraid to stand up to the Government to protect the interests of the people of Redditch and would so so again if necessary.
"United we stand, divided we fail," she told the crowd.
Rebecca Blake, Labour's Parliamentary spokeswoman, said she had heard countless stories of people whose lives had been saved thanks to the Alex and she would fight to the end to protect it.
Councillors from Warwickshire were also present to represent the wider area the Alex serves, particularly Studley and Alcester.
Coun Hazel Wright, who represents Studley on Stratford District Council, urged the NHS to listen to the people while Coun Clive Rickhards, a Warwickshire County Councillor also for Studley, said the NHS had been set-up at a time of austerity and funding was no excuse for the 'barmy' proposals being put forward.
The Trust says change is needed as it is facing a £50million blackhole by 2015 as government funding will remain broadly flat over the next few years and will not keep up with demand.
NHS Worcestershire, which buys in healthcare services for the county, said of the rally: "It's only right people should express their views.
"We are focused on preparing for a full consultation with the people of Worcestershire which we aim to begin in November. All views expressed so far will be taken into account before any final decisions are made."
For a full report and pictures of Saturday's demonstration see Friday's Redditch Standard.
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