Save Southend A&E March & Rally

It was an amazing sight to see on Saturday as 100’s of local people marched down Southend High St to demonstrate their opposition to government plans to downgrade Southend’s A&E department. I can’t thank all those 100’s of people enough for making this event such a huge success, and as the secretary of Save Southend A&E campaign I am privileged to work with a fantastic and truly dedicated group of people whom have all worked so hard over the past weeks to make this happen.

Before the start of the march, top of Pier Hill.
Me with fellow marchers before the start of the march at the top of Pier Hill.

When we first discussed the idea of this march, barely six weeks ago, we were concerned we might only get a handful of people attend – some estimates put the number yesterday at 1,000 and the massive response we’ve had to our campaign is testament to the strength of feeling and passion that people have in defending OUR NHS.

The march in full swing mid-way down Southend High St Ph: © Gaz de Vere - All Rights Reserved.
The march in full swing mid-way down Southend High St. Ph: © Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.

Our message is simple – we oppose the restructuring of A&E departments in Mid & South Essex and the downgrading of Southend A&E department to a walk-in centre that will not accept 999 blue-light ambulances (either at night or at all). We oppose this because it is not a clinically-driven plan.

NHS managers and politicians in favour of these plans sidestep questions by saying “Southend A&E will still be open 24/7” – we know that, but it will be not much more than a minor injuries facility and no doctors, nurses or consultants specialising in emergency treatment will want to work there – it would be like Sherlock Holmes working as a traffic cop.

The same people say “It’s clinically driven and patients will benefit – we already by-pass Southend for Basildon with heart attack sufferers.” Top clinicians working on the frontline in Southend A&E tell us these plans are madness but if they speak out their jobs and careers would be finished. One specific type of heart attack patient will go directly to Basildon if it can be diagnosed by the ambulance crew – an ST-elevated myocardial infarction – in a normal week this would account for 1 or 2 patients and we do not dispute that this is the right and clinically proven course of action – for these few of patients.

Remember too that far fewer ambulances have a qualified paramedic on board than there were 20 years ago. Back then most crews had two paramedics, now many do not have even one.

Basildon will NOT BECOME A MAJOR TRAUMA CENTRE. If plans go ahead as they are currently recommended, Basildon will just become a very busy A&E department – possibly the busiest in the whole country. Major trauma cases from road traffic accidents and the like will still be taken to the Major Trauma Centres (MTC) at Addenbrookes or the Royal London as they are done now. To be a MTC a hospital would need a specialist neurosurgery unit which Basildon hasn’t got and isn’t going to get.

Me at the rally distributing leaflets to volunteers to deliver in their streets, workplaces and to friends. Ph: © Gaz de Vere - All Rights Reserved.
Me at the rally distributing leaflets to volunteers to deliver in their streets, workplaces and to friends. Ph: © Gaz de Vere – All Rights Reserved.

The job of our campaign is to raise awareness of what the government is trying to do – to do that we need YOU, the people, to spread the word and tell everyone in Southend and the surrounding area what is really happening.
You can see how Conservative MPs like James Duddridge and David Amess, and Councillors like Leslie Salter (Exec Cllr for Health & Adult Social Care) are trying to fob us off with spin and avoidance. Don’t allow people to believe what they say – tell them the truth. Together we can fight these plans and stand a chance of defeating them and stop the destruction of our health service!

This is just the start of our campaign and there is a very long way to go, but together we can do it.

[A special mention for Tony at Tang’s Oriental Buffet who helped us massively by letting us use their electricity to power our PA when we couldn’t access the to the Council’s power sockets in the street – I’ve eaten at Tang’s several times and it’s great food and amazing value!]

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