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Posted on 10 October 2011 at 14:23 GMT

Health campaigners take Ascot by storm

On Saturday 8th October, 300 chanting campaigners marched right through the heart of Ascot, yes Ascot, against the closure of Heatherwood hospital.

In my 40 years of living in the area I have never seen such a sight. The march and rally was well supported by local residents, many local shoppers showed their support as did car drivers by hooting.

When marching through the grounds of the threatened hospital we were encouraged by the members of staff waving and cheering from the hospital windows.

The march and rally was organised by activists from Bracknell, Ascot, Windsor and Slough. A wide range of political parties, trade unions and community activists participated.

The proposed closure of Heatherwood is part of the government's attacks on the NHS and if successful will mean local residents having to travel long distances for treatment.

Already the Birthing Centre has closed indefinately and services have been drastically reduced over the years.

Following the march there was a rally with speakers from various parts of the area, including Fiona McTaggert, Labour MP for Slough.

A small pathetic group of local Tories huddled at the fringes of the rally saying they would not participate because the event was organised by `left wing extremists`.

In truth the event involved activists from a wide political spectrum, including Greens, Labour Party members, Socialist Party members, Lib Dems, trade unionists, hospital staff and many members of the public, concerned at what the closure would mean for them and their families.

We demanded the immediate reopening of the Birthing Centre, no more cuts to NHS services in our area and most of all no closure of Heatherwood hospital.

I spoke at the rally on behalf of Bracknell Defend Our Community Services and said that closure was not an option for us.

All in all the event was a huge success and is part of a continuing battle. We have collected over 5,500 names on our petition and received wide local press and TV coverage.

We will return to Ascot in the near future with many more than the 300 people who took to the streets on Saturday.

Terry Pearce, chair of Defend Our Community Services.
Neil Adams and Val Pearce, EC members, all in a personal capacity

This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 10 October 2011 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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