Worksop echoed with the rallying cry of “Save our Children’s Ward” as hundreds of residents took to the streets in protest against cuts at Bassetlaw Hospital.
Campaigners of all ages held signs reading “Save our NHS” aloft as they marched from Bassetlaw Hospital to Worksop Town Hall on Saturday morning.
The demonstration was held in response to Bassetlaw and Doncaster Teaching Hospitals Trust’s decision to close the district’s children’s ward to night-time admissions.
Any youngsters requiring care after 7pm are now automatically transferred to Doncaster Infirmary in private ambulances that cost around £14,000 a month.
This has sparked concerns among parents, who claim this is too far for poorly Bassetlaw children to travel.
Activist Ellen King, who heads the Parents Against Cuts to Bassetlaw Children’s Ward Facebook page which organised the protest, said: “The turnout for Saturday’s march and rally was phenomenal and I would personally like to thank everybody who came out to support our campaign and those who volunteered their time to make it possible.
“The march was hugely successful with around 500 people marching with us, not just from Bassetlaw but also from across South Yorkshire.
“Our campaign is stronger than ever and the message to the hospital Trust is very clear.
“Bassetlaw demands its children’s ward back. We want to see robust and immediate action on the Trust’s promise to fully reopen the ward.
“There is much still to go with this campaign. We will not give up and we will continue to hold the Trust to account on their broken promises.”
Trust chiefs have cited that staff shortages are to blame for cuts to the children’s ward, and say decisions have been made with safety “as the upmost concern”.
David Purdue, chief operating officer at the Trust, said: “The Children’s Ward has had to close to overnight admissions from 7pm every night due to medical and nursing staff vacancies.
“We want to assure people who use services at Bassetlaw Hospital that changes have been made to the Paediatric Ward with safety as the upmost concern.
“The ward will re-open at night if the current vacancies can be filled.
“As per Care Quality Commission guidance, young patients require specialist registered children’s nurses to care for them and there continues to be a national shortage of this particular specialism.
“The Trust has multiple nursing vacancies and despite numerous recruitment drives, these have been unsuccessful.
This position is not unique to Bassetlaw, and we have made these changes to make the best use of the staffing we have available in order to continue to provide a safe paediatric service across the communities we serve.”