More than 5,000 people flooded St George’s Square today for Huddersfield’s biggest post war demonstration as they fight plans to close the town's A&E department.
MPs and councillors mixed with Morris dancers, bikers and thousands of Kirklees residents furious at the shock proposals unveiled by health bosses earlier this year.
The Clinical Commissioning Group’s plan to move A&E services from Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to Calderdale Royal Hospital as part of a huge reshuffle has sparked massive protests across Kirklees.
The proposals would also see a new hospital built on the Acre Mills site in Lindley, to replace the existing Infirmary.
Financial pressures on the Calderdale hospital are blamed for the moves.Today, crowds braved the cold to march in their thousands through the centre of the town, voicing their fury, and chanting: “CCG hear us say, HRI is here to stay”. Many were waving placards demanding the town keeps its A&E department.
Before the march a number of speakers addressed the crowds, including Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney who said: “If we lose our A&E department lives will be put at risk.”
Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff said: “There is nothing stronger than people power. We can do this.”
And campaign organiser Karl Deitch said he was delighted by the turnout saying: “This just shows what this means to us as a town. We just can’t lose our A&E.”
After the march the crowds gathered back in St George’s Square where more speakers, including medics, students and union officials, outlined why the town needs to fight for its A&E department.
Natalie Ratcliffe, campaign secretary and regional organiser for Unison, said the proposal is “not a consultation, it’s an imposition”.
And Unison officer Paul Cooney, a member of the Keep our NHS Public group, said: “You do not realise how heartening it is to see our communities united in this fight to save the NHS. It’s inspiring.”
The proposals have sparked one of the biggest protests the town has ever seen, and almost 60,000 people have signed a government petition to stop the closure of the A&E department.
A consultation on the plan will begin in two weeks. Protesters are planning a legal challenge against the proposals, and appealed for the crowd for help in raising the £50,000 they need to meet the costs.