Hospital group in protest march
Health campaigners battling to keep services at Stafford Hospital will march today in opposition to plans to move maternity and paediatric care.
Members of the Support Stafford Hospital (SSH) campaign, who organised a huge march earlier this year attracting more than 50,000 supporters, have called a second rally just days before a public consultation over plans to transfer services ends.
Trust Special Administrators, appointed by health watchdog Monitor earlier this year, have proposed breaking up the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which runs Stafford and Cannock Chase Hospitals, and moving some services to hospitals in neighbouring areas, while retaining its A&E department.
However, SSH have opposed these plans, saying they equate to a "downgrade" of care for patients.
Today, campaigners are gathering in the town's market square before marching to the nearby hospital in a "public show of strength".
The hospital was at the centre of one of the biggest health scandals to hit the NHS in recent years, with an inquiry into the trust which runs Stafford led by Robert Francis QC concluding there had been basic failings in standards of care.
The Francis report identified "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people" with some patients left lying in their own faeces for days, forced to drink water from vases or given the wrong medication.
That inquiry followed a 2009 investigation by the Healthcare Commission which found between 400 and 1,200 more people died at Stafford Hospital than would have been expected between 2005 and 2008.
In April the the trust became the first foundation trust to be placed in administration after a report concluded it was not "clinically or financially sustainable".
The administrators have said the trust is too small to provide adequate standards of clinical care in the longer term and partnering up with larger hospital trusts is the only way for Stafford Hospital to survive.
Mid Staffordshire is also costing more to run than it brings in, with a £20 million deficit in its budget which administrators say can only be bridged by dissolving the trust and moving some services.
A consultation on the proposals ends on October 1, with any final decision on the trust's future being made by the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt before the end of the year.
A spokesman for SSH said the march was the chance for "one last push" backing the retaining of all services at Stafford, adding clinical standards and confidence in the hospital had risen significantly since the scandal.