Anger as 1,500 flock to Stafford Hospital meeting

[gallery] Angry scenes unfolded as 1,500 protesters flocked to a fiery public meeting to vent their fury against health bosses who want to axe services at Stafford Hospital.

Anger as 1,500 flock to Stafford Hospital meeting

Almost half of the campaigners were turned away for safety reasons because the room at Staffordshire County Showground was packed to capacity.

Security staff locked the doors when some tried to barge their way in to the meeting last night. Organisers set up a room in the nearby Pavillion Suite where 450 watched on video link and another 200 listened via a speaker in the car park.

Inside, the Trust Special Administrators Alan Bloom and Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor came under sustained attack for two-and-a-half hours as the audience demanded answers.

There were angry calls of 'resign' and 'shame' to many of their responses. Among the toughest questions were from three senior hospital staff who received noisy standing ovations.

Anger brewed right from the start when a 20-minute video was played outlining the TSAs' plans. Chants of 'turn it off' drowned out some of the footage.

The administrators repeated their arguments that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, was financially unsustainable and, in the long term, clinically unsafe to run maternity, critical care and children's services.

It is proposed that the trust is disbanded with the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent and New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton taking over patients and services. But Many in the audience criticised the decision. Mother-of-three Kelly Tolley, aged 31, from Wildwood, Stafford, said she spends much of the winter at Stafford Hospital with her four-year-old asthmatic son.

She asked: "How am I going to be able to take him to Stoke all the time on public transport and be back home for my other two children?"

Jake Botfield, consultant nurse for critical care at Stafford Hospital, told Professor Mascie-Taylor bluntly that his clinical credibility had 'fallen through the floor'.

"We are the safest health organisation in the Midlands and our data for critical care is among the best nationally," he said. "Financially, my department has cut costs by £250,000 every year for the last three years."

He and other senior colleagues accused the TSAs of refusing to speak to them. Head of Midwifery Anne Mellor said: "I have worked at the hospital for 20 years, all through the turmoil, and maternity services at Stafford have never been in a mess. Quite the contrary, they surpass other hospitals in the region."

Kim Woolliscroft, head of Children's Services, suggested the administrators had based their recommendations on inaccurate information. She said the TSA report claimed 313 children were admitted to the hospital last year when the actual figure was 776.

Mr Bloom said the figures had been provided by the hospital management.

Campaigners also voiced fears that New Cross Hospital and the University Hospital of North Staffordshire would not have the capacity to cope with the influx of extra patients.

Graham Maltby, Stone-based former deputy chief fire officer for Staffordshire, asked: "What would it cost to put Stafford right compared to the price to get extra capacity at other hospitals?" The 700-plus audience inside the Ingestre Suite was repeatedly asked to 'calm down' by chairman Robin Morrison.

However the administrators were undaunted. Afterwards Mr Bloom described the meeting as "a great challenge."

He added: "It was exactly as I expected. People were passionate and showed they cared. I was very, very pleased with how it went."

Support Stafford Hospital campaigners were selling campaign T-shirts at £5 each outside the venue while volunteers with collecting buckets invited donations as the group launched its fighting fund in case their fight turns into a legal battle.

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