The decision by NHS England to drop their proposal to end surgery at the East Midlands Congenital Heart Centre is very welcome.
This is a victory for common sense. Glenfield, as we always said, is a brilliant service popular with patients and families that achieves excellent outcomes.
But it is also a victory for people-power. Huge numbers of people helped fight to keep the centre open, with 130,000 signing a petition and thousands attending protests, marches and public meetings. Activists worked hard for the last 18 months or so building support.
The staff have stood firm and the Trust worked hard to build the case for keeping the centre. We have had support from a wide range of people: politicians, trade unionists, and a variety of campaigners.
Above all it shows that if we unite and fight we can overturn unjust proposals.
Speaking to Rob Sisson on BBC East Midlands Today, Steve Score, Chair of the campaign, said:
“Its absolutely brilliant. There is huge relief at this decision, and yes it is a celebration tonight that we have won. But we were prepared for it to be a protest. If they had decided to close it the battle wouldn’t have been over, but as it is we have already won and that is fantastic.”
Shirley Barnes, one of the main organisers of the campaign, was similarly jubilant:
“This campaign entailed a massive amount of work by hundreds of people. Everyone who got their family and friends to sign the petition, or complete a consultation paper, every shop, hairdresser, pub, restaurant that had petitions for us. Volunteers that collected at various events, organisations that gave us free stands at various events, festivals etc. And we could not have done it without the support of some of the unions.
“The campaign committee was a very very disparate group of people, parents, trade unionists, political activists etc, who would not have come together under any other circumstances, but who shared a great aim of saving a much-needed heart unit. And it was this working together and using all their different skills and abilities, that made this such a successful campaign. People-power at its best!”
On twitter Rob Sissons posted a further two interviews with Steve Score and Gill Smart from Heart Link. Steve explained:
“We are jubilant that we have won a victory today. NHS England have done a U-turn over their proposal to close the Glenfield Children’s Heart Centre, which is fantastic, and I think it is a result, above all, of people-power – of the thousands of people – who got together and fought to save the Centre, and it shows you can win.”
In a separate interview Gill Smart said:
“People-power is fantastic. Without the people behind us we wouldn’t have got this result, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time out to vote and do the marches and everything, because without their help we wouldn’t have achieved this outcome.”
The Save Glenfield has, in every sense, been a fantastic success!
But while our campaign was triumphant, the NHS remains under considerable threat from funding cuts, closures, and privatisation. It is for this reason that, earlier this year, the Save Glenfield campaign took the decision to affiliate to Health Campaigns Together.
Health Campaigns Together is a national organisation aimed at bringing together all health campaigns in common struggle: “to enable many of the campaigns that have been formed to liaise together, share experiences and lessons, and where possible work together on issues of common concern.”
And linking up with other campaigns was certainly a factor in our success. In the East Midlands, campaigns are currently raging over the attempted closure of a neuro-rehabilitation ward in Chatsworth and the removal of 24/7 service at an A&E in Grantham.
Throughout our battle to Save Glenfield we received messages of solidarity and ongoing support from these campaigns – a sentiment we returned by supporting their demonstrations and actions.
It is vital that this spirit of solidarity continues, even as our campaign comes to an end.
But there are also many issues still facing the people of Leicestershire.
One of the main issues that Health Campaigns Together currently has in its sights is the government’s Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs). These plans will see the NHS’s budget slashed by as much as £22bn over the next five years!
In Leicestershire, this will mean, amongst other things, losing 243 acute care beds at Leicester General Hospital; the closure of St Mary’s birthing centre at Melton Mowbray and the loss of consultant led maternity services at Leicester General; the closure of Fielding Palmer Community Hospital in Lutterworth and Rutland Memorial Hospital in Oakham; and a halving of the number of beds provided at Hinckley and Bosworth Community Hospital. (For more info, see: https://www.dora.dmu.ac.uk/bitstream/handle/2086/13434/STPReport6Mar17.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y )
So even though the Glenfield campaign is over, it is critical that we make use of our valuable experiences of how campaigns can be won in the wider movement to save the NHS.
What the Glenfield campaign clearly demonstrates is that when people unite and fight back against unjust proposals, we can win!