Last night saw well in excess of 100 concerned members of the public, local councillors, electoral candidates form most parties (although there was a distinct lack of blue), the old and the young gathered for a meeting organised by the Save Southend A&E action group.
The meeting commenced with a brief update on activities carried out recently by the group including leafleting, contacting MP’s and councillors, an on-line petition and paper petitions where over 3,000 signatures had been collected over two weekends of street stalls in Southend High.
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Although there have been recent claims by a local MP’s that the A&E would be safe (an article which has been shared to widely and has taken precious campaign time to discount) the campaign organisers explained, for those that were not aware what the implications of the current options set out in the Mid & South Essex Sustainability and Transformation plans; which would result in Southend Hospital closing it doors to blue light ambulances, with such cases being forced to undertake the journey to Basildon. While it is acknowledged that Southend would still accept walk in and GP referrals patients the concerns centre around the length of journeys on congested roads, availability of ambulances and waiting times when Basildon would be put under more pressure than it currently is.
The committee also ascertained the point that while the campaign is concentrating on the threat to full blue light A&E services, it was stated that the group are also opposed to massive cuts in spending proposed by under the STP. The group also stated that the campaign was not at the detriment of the other hospitals and that the group do not wish to see Chelmsford A&E downgraded or Basildon put under extra pressure.
Many of those attending the meeting raised questions, shared stories and voiced concerns about the plans. Others came forward with offers of practical help to assist the current small team of individuals who have been working hard on the campaign to raise awareness and engage local people. Candidates from several of the local political parties who will be standing in next month’s general election voiced their support for the NHS and opposition to any plans including; Julian Ware-Lane (Labour), Ashley Dalton (Labour), Peter Gwizdala (Liberal Democrats), Simon Cross (Green Party) and Ron Woodley (Independent).
A small committee of essential and often considered uninteresting roles were elected through necessity (although those in position appeared to be happy to be elected).
Thoughts from the evening:
· Outside the Mid and South Essex Success Regime, clinicians have highlighted to the campaign team that they believe this will cost lives.
· There has been some discussion that Basildon will be a specialist trauma centre. However, this is not the case, things will continue as they are now.
· There is a myth that currently all suspected heart attacks go to Basildon – this is not true if the ambulance is equipped with an ECG and can diagnose they do but other cases would be seen in an emergency at Southend, assessed and stabilised before being transferred to Basildon.
· If Southend A&E is downgraded there is the risk around staffing- staff would not want to lose their skills if now working in the equivalent of a minor injuries unit.
The meeting also promoted the forthcoming march and rally, planned for Saturday 20th May 2017 assembling at 12pm, Pier hill, Southend with a short march up the high street with speeches planned for outside the Odeon. Posters and leaflets were handed out for distribution around the town.