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Rally speakers vow to save Ealing Hospital services
WORKERS and residents from across the borough marched together to Ealing Common on Saturday, in protest at proposed changes to the role of Ealing Hospital.
Separate marches began in Southall and Acton, before rallying on the Common to hear addresses from politicians and healthcare professionals and listen to live music.
Plans to move vital services, including accident and emergency, maternity, and paediatrics, to neighbouring hospitals are being vigorously opposed.
Labour councillor Dr Onkar Sahota, a GP, said: “It’s a myth that you can close four out of nine A&E departments and still improve health service.”
He warned that two million people would be affected by the changes.
It is not only Labour members who oppose the changes.
Conservative MP for Ealing Central and Acton, Angie Bray, described them as disproportionate and reckless. She said it would result in the loss of 5,600 NHS jobs.
Listeners were encouraged to read the consultation document, which was handed out among the crowds, and to respond with their views.
Mary Turner, national president of the GMB union, said the proposals would take the NHS backwards, drawing a comparison to Conservative policy of the 1980s and 90s.
Rachael Maskell, head of health at Unite, described it as the biggest reorganisation the NHS had ever seen.
The audience spanned the generations, including parents whose children were born at Ealing Hospital.
Mother-of-three Melanie Watts said it would take an hour to travel to Northwick Park Hospital without a blue light, and this would be the closest alternative if Ealing closed its maternity unit.
Caitlin Maloney, 18, of Acton, expressed concern at travelling further for treatment, as her family did not have a car.
Several residents spoke of how Ealing Hospital had provided good care, including a 76-year-old woman who has been using the its services since 1959.
Jaskiran Chohan, 22, of Southall, said: “The cuts are symptomatic of a government that doesn’t believe in providing basic social services.”
The protest was peaceful but passionate, and the view that the fight to save Ealing’s hospitals would not end that day was expressed by many in the audience.
Council leader Julian Bell said: “The people of Ealing have spoken with one voice. We are totally opposed to these cuts and closures.”
A further protest will take place in the borough on October 20.