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Hands off HRI charts way forward
Mike Forster, Chair of Hands off HRI (personal capacity)
Despite a deluge of torrential rain, over 120 people turned out to our latest Hands off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary public meeting in Huddersfield town centre.
The meeting was initially addressed by our solicitors who went through in detail the chances of a legal challenge to the hospital management proposals. Although the session lasted for an hour, you could hear a pin drop as residents hung on every word, hopeful we can beat them in court.
Around 20 questions were asked from the floor, reflecting an intense and detailed understanding of this tortuous process. We were all reassured that the solicitor felt we have a 'more than reasonable success' of victory. However a legal challenge will not be launched until the full business case for closure is drawn up which could take another nine months.
This presents the campaign with the challenge of maintaining momentum for another year and raising more money for legal costs. So far, over £43,000 has been raised.
However, the route to victory has many paths. The meeting was also addressed by local GP and Socialist Party member Jackie Grunsell. She explained that the local GPs' union, the LMC, is seriously considering a vote of no confidence in the local management board (the CCG). If this is carried the management could be forced to abandon its plans.
Likewise the campaign is lobbying local scrutiny councillors who have the power to veto the proposal. We will also be leafleting local NHS staff in the run up to Christmas, offering support and solidarity in the event of staff cuts.
The meeting was also addressed by a local ambulance worker, where there is a plan to cut back on local provision. The campaign continues to offer support to these workers.
The looming threat of the STP plans were taken up in the debate afterwards and everyone was urged to join the national NHS demonstration on 4th March 2017 in London. 51 people put their name down for the demo and almost £300 was collected for the Hands off HRI campaign.
Overall there was a feeling of optimism and determination that this battle can be won. Campaigners have drawn up a timetable of events and activity until June next year.
We will also be playing our part in assisting the growing movement of resistance to NHS cuts across the country which could undo this government that's intent on cuts and privatisation. 2017 will be even hotter!
This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 26 November 2016 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.