A partial victory has been won by campaigners fighting to keep Heatherwood hospital open, writes Terry Pearce, the chair of Defend Our Community Services.

He adds: “While there are more questions than answers, by mobilising public opinion we have forced the local NHS bosses to rethink their plan to close the hospital.

“Twelve months ago it was planned to close the hospital and sell the
land off. With 20,000 names on our petition and following a series of
marches, meetings, lobbies, etc, we have won round one.

“The fight continues to ensure that we have a NHS hospital on the site, with no PFI, privatisation or part privatisation.

Extracts from a press release issued by the Save Heatherwood Hospital (SHH) combined campaign group on 22 May 2012:

The Save Heatherwood Hospital (SHH) combined campaign group
acknowledges the firm announcement that “NHS Services will continue to
be provided at Heatherwood Hospital for many years to come”, which was
made last week by the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals’ NHS
Foundation Trust and NHS Berkshire.

However, the community groups fully recognise that many questions
still remain over the future development of the Heatherwood hospital
site.

Terry Pearce, Chairman of Defend Our Community Services (DOCS) said:
“Members of Defend Our Community Services are pleased that the local NHS
bosses have listened to public opinion and agreed with us that
Heatherwood hospital should not close.

“For 12 months or so, DOCS, along with others in the Save Heatherwood
Hospital (SHH) campaign, have been fighting to save the hospital from
closure – therefore this news is welcome.

“We must say, however, that there are many questions left unanswered,
including: Will the hospital be a fully fledged NHS hospital or a
partially/fully privatised hospital? Will there still be a Minor
Injuries Unit at Heatherwood? Regarding the Birth Centre, will there be a
genuine consultation in the autumn or has it already been decided to
close it permanently? Who are the partners that the Trust is talking to –
are they private partners? Until these questions are answered DOCS will
continue the campaign, as we are committed to a fully fledged NHS
hospital, no PFI, with a Minor Injuries Unit, Birth Centre and properly
resourced facilities suitable for a growing and ageing local community”.

Margery Thorogood, from Windsor and Slough Against the Cuts (WASAC),
agreed that the news from the Trust and NHS Berkshire is to be welcomed
and added: “However, local people will be anxious to know what shape and
form the hospital will take. To what extent will its services be
maintained? Will the Birth Centre reopen? Will the hospital remain fully
NHS?

“Will the much needed refurbishment allow for the hospital’s historic
features to be retained? Will more land be sold off to fund any
changes? WASAC awaits the final proposals with interest and will engage
actively when the public consultation begins. The campaign continues”.

There will be the opportunity for members of the public to offer their views in June and July, say the two NHS organisations.

This will then be followed by a public consultation over proposed specific service changes in the autumn.

Spike Humphrey, from Ascot Community Action Group (ACAG) for
Heatherwood commented: “The Trust has acknowledged that public opinion
is overwhelmingly against closing Heatherwood and they have bowed to the
wishes of the public on this point.

“We thank everyone who has shown their support by signing the petition and attending public meetings and marches.

“Making our collective voices heard (rather than meetings ‘behind
closed doors’) is by far the most effective way we have to ensure
healthcare provision matches local need”.

SHH’s website address: www.saveheatherwoodhospital.org.uk.