Protestors battle to save local hospital

Health officials were greeted by posters, placards, and angry protestors today as a town turned out to fight for its hospital.

Health officials were greeted by posters, placards, and angry protestors today as a town turned out to fight for its hospital.

Aylsham came out in force, to voice its strong opposition to proposed cuts, when the Norfolk Primary Care Trust held the first consultation in the county.

And if today's meeting is a flavour of what is to come, health chiefs face hours of tough questioning from upset locals.

The PCT is currently in a 90-day consultation period over plans to cut 43 out of more than 200 hospital beds and replace them with home care.

If they get the go-ahead, St Michael's at Aylsham, Benjamin Court, Cromer and Cranmer House at Fakenham could close.

More than 300 people packed Aylsham town hall, while a group of protestors, including local doctors, set up camp outside brandishing banners.

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Dr Chris Pearce from the town's Hungate Street surgery said: “Everyone knows this is a bad decision and people's lives will be put in jeopardy if the cuts go ahead. There's a reason we've painted the banner in blood red.”

He believed public opinion could make a difference, but others were less confident.

Resident Peter Cunning said: “This is ridiculous, an absolute farce. I've tried asking questions but no-one will answer them. They've clearly already made up their mind and this is all just for show.”

The PCT's director of provider services Mark Taylor was the only senior official on hand to answer any questions about the plans.

“So far public opinion is telling us they want care in the home. We cannot afford to provide cottage hospitals and care in the home so decisions have to be made.”

Following the meeting at Aylsham over community bed cuts, the others in the series of "drop-ins" being held by the primary care trust are:

t Cromer Parish Hall, Friday March 23, 10am-2pm,

t Fakenham and District Community Centre, Thursday March 29, 10am- 2pm.

t Holt Community Centre, Wednesday April 4, 10am-2pm.

t Dereham Memorial Hall, Tuesday April 17, 10am-2pm

t Swaffham Assembly Rooms, Wednesday April 18, 4pm -7pm

t North Walsham Community Centre, Tuesday April 24, 10am-2pm

t Wymondham Central Hall, Friday May 11, 10am-2pm

t Norwich City Hall, Wednesday May 16, 10am-2pm