Campaigners take fight to save Stafford Hospital's A&E department to Prime Minister David Cameron
MORE than 20,000 campaigners have signed a petition calling on the Government to protect a troubled hospital's emergency department.
Residents fear Stafford Hospital could be downgraded or closed altogether if its A&E is not reopened overnight.
And they hope Prime Minister David Cameron will back their fight to see out-of-hours services restored after handing over the petition to Downing Street yesterday.
Campaign leader Diane Smith, a member of Stafford Labour Party, of Silkmore Crescent, Stafford, said: "We were told the A&E was reopening a number of times and I think the hospital genuinely meant that at first, but what we are seeing now is the intervention of the board, which may have a different agenda.
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"For us, this petition is just the start. We want the hospital to be supported through its financial challenges.
"We want to see the return of 24-hour A&E department and we want the hospital to continue to play a central part in meeting the needs of the area's ageing population.
"It is really important that people are involved in whatever decisions are being taken, this needs to be an open process and at the moment it is not.
Mrs Smith, who was among the delegation to make the journey to Downing Street, added: "Any decision to keep the A&E closed at night means a downgrade in facilities at the hospital and people are worried this could eventually mean a complete closure."
The A&E has been shut between 10pm and 8am since December because of a shortage of medical staff.
The decision means between 12 and 15 patients a night have been diverted to other hospitals.
The hospital has now missed three deadlines to reopen fully and no new date for the restrictions to be lifted.
The overnight closure could become permanent if plans to formally integrate A&E services with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire go ahead.
Cheryl Porter, a member of the Support Stafford Hospital Group, said: "Words can't describe just how important the hospital and we're doing all we can to see it reopened."
The 49-year-old, of Chase Road, Stafford, added: "It is invaluable for the 300,000 people who use it each year."
Councillor Anne Hobbs, of Newport Road, Stafford, said: "As a trained nurse, it frightens me to think about the medical implications the closure of the hospital could have on many people in Stafford."