Defiant cries of “no” echoed out around Lowestoft town centre as about 100 people turned out for a rally to oppose the proposed cuts to mental health care services across Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Sending out a strong message to NHS chiefs, there was widespread anger as they raised their voices to hit out at the proposals.

Former Waveney MP Bob Blizzard organised the protest on Saturday following the announcement by the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust that would eventually lead to jobs being axed and beds cut.

With proposals to axe 502 jobs over the next four years and cut in-patient beds from 375 to 289 – which decreases from 225 beds to 172 in Norfolk and Waveney, and from 150 to 117 in Suffolk – the protesters expressed horror at the plans.

Calling on everyone to “continue to fight,” the rally included speeches from Mr Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, John Waters, the chairman of the Friends of Carlton Court Hospital, Sandy Martin, the leader of Suffolk County Council’s Labour group, and Pat Cruse, the Care Centre Manager at Crossroads in Lowestoft.

Placards were waved, and the crowds of people – including dementia sufferers and their families, carers, councillors, local staff, health service workers and concerned locals – looked on aghast as they heard that a popular Lowestoft facility could close in February.

Mr Blizzard said that these were “devastating cuts,” which “concern everybody in the community”.

Mr Waters said: “These are not pending cuts, they are already happening. We were told last week that the Poppies day care department will close in February. We have to raise our voices to stop it.”

The Poppies day service runs at Carlton Court and offers facilities to patients aged over 65 with functional mental health problems and patients with dementia.

A Trust spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring the services we provide meet the needs of local people, we also have to ensure we can afford to pay for these services both now and in the future.

“Our service strategy sets out plans to ensure we achieve both these things and as we are still in the consultation phase, no firm decisions have been made.

“We fully appreciate that people may have concerns and we will consult with anyone affected by any changes with the true facts and figures so everyone clearly understands the reasons why services need to be redesigned.”

mark.boggis@archant.co.uk

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