Hands Off HRI wishes to thank all the people who turned out on Saturday 2nd December to make our Hands Around the Hospital protest such a success. Over 500 people attended the protest which initially assembled in the car park of the Salvation Army and then walked over to the hospital. We were met by more well wishers at the hospital as the entire crowd stood silently and peacefully in a ring around the hospital perimeter. It was an inspiring sight to see people from so many different backgrounds, generations and areas who all joined hands in a gesture of solidarity with staff and patients.
Campaigners from Lancashire and Lincolnshire spoke at the opening rally to bring their support and later after the protest, we were addressed by spokespeople from most of the major political parties (Greens, Lib Dems, Labour but unfortunately the invited speakers from the Conservative Party did not attend), including MPs Thelma Walker and Barry Sheerman. We also heard from successful campaigns in Leicester and Chatsworth which have fought and won to maintain their local NHS services. A minute’s silence was observed for the grandmother of Rebecca Furey, Elaine, who passed away last week whilst under the threat of being moved to Calderdale. Elaine’s unfortunate death graphically reminded everyone why the protest had been called: to tell the Trust that their proposed ward moves taken in undue haste will be resisted and are having terrible consequences.
Mike Forster, Chair of Hands Off HRI explained to the crowd how Irwin Mitchell, the solicitors representing the campaign, had received written assurances that these moves were only temporary. The campaign does not believe these assurances especially since fixtures and fittings have been removed from some wards which have been shut down. However the campaign will hold the Trust to these pledges, in court if necessary.
As ever the protest attracted tremendous support from the passing vehicles and members of the public. Campaigners were all heartened to see NHS staff come to the windows to wave their support and afterwards, many staff received gifts of food as a gesture of ongoing support for their hard work and commitment. The protest finished in high spirits. The Judicial Review is now underway and we still await the findings of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. We received messages of support from the Shadow Health Minister, Jonathan Ashworth, who also committed to support the hospital. Hands Off HRI would like to thank the Salvation Army for hosting the opening rally; all those campaigners who attended from other parts of the country to make the event such a success; all the speakers for their solidarity message and above all to the people of Huddersfield who continue to support this vital and vibrant community campaign.