Just over a year ago trade unionists and local activists from Bracknell, Ascot, Windsor, Slough and Wokingham joined together to launch a campaign to save our local Hospital. The local PCT bosses had announced that they planned to close Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot and sell off the land.We formed the Save Heatherwood Hospital Campaign and vowed to defeat the proposals.
Our campaign involved petitions, public meetings, marches, letter writing and a musical event. The PCT would not meet us arrogantly pushed forward their proposal without full consultation of the local community. At a meeting in Ascot 500 local people turned up and lambasted the PCT speakers on the platform not one speaker from the floor supported their proposal, there were angry interventions from consultants, nurses, SHH activists, local residents and trade unionists. At all their consultation meetings a majority voted down their proposals. We organised the biggest march and rally in living memory up Ascot High Street, one of the richest areas in the UK. We were cheered by the staff in the hospital as we marched through the grounds.We collected 25,000 names on our petition, we even had the support of the local press. Finally under huge pressure the PCT admitted defeat and announced the hospital would remain open.This was an embarrassing defeat for the PCT and a major victory for our campaign.
Smarting from defeat the PCT came up with a `pre consultation` exercise which proposed to remove some services from the hospital, including the Birthing Centre, Minor Injuries Unit and the Rehab Ward. They sent out a questionnaire proposing these changes, we organised a big campaign and all three proposals were defeated , the local community followed our lead and kicked the closures into touch. Following this further defeat the PCT decided to talk to us and invited us to sit on their `Stakeholders Committee` and even asked us `what do we have to do to get you on board`, we said just leave all the services at Heatherwood Hospital.
Although defeated again the PCT are now proposing a `consultation exercise` ignoring the wishes of the local community, this time they are only consulting with hand picked groups and local Councils, etc. We are launching a campaign with leaflets with the slogan Save Our Services – Vote NO – NO – NO. We are also presenting our petition to the PCT bosses at the hospital following a march with large posters saying NO to the proposed removal of the three services from the hospital. We are determined to stop them in their tracks. No matter what happens the hospital has been saved, a partial but important victory we must now finish the job and save all the services at the hospital.
Members of the NSSN have been involved in the leadership of the Save Heatherwood Hospital Campaign and the local UNITE Branch has supported and help to finance the struggle.
The main lesson from this successful fight is that its vital to not merely protest but to FIGHT TO WIN.
Save Heatherwood Hospital, Chair Bracknell UNITE & NSSN Anti Cuts Committee