|John Woodcock, MP and Mandy|
It is really refreshing to be able to report on yet another local event resulting in a positive outcome instead of the apathy and negativity usually found in this region. Mandy Telford, wife of our MP John Woodcock, headed a very well organised campaign against a threat to downgrade the maternity unit at FGH (Furness General Hospital), part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust (UHMBT)
The 'Thousand Voices' campaign to save the FGH maternity unit was efficiently conducted and very well funded with support by the unions GMB and Unison together with the Labour Party. Full colour glossy leaflets - doubling as posters - were posted throughout the town and use was made of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Leaflets were also handed out in the town centre from a garden 'gazeebo' at which locals could be filmed making their comments and these can be viewed at - www.YouTube.com/SaveFGHMaternity
Constituents can sign the local petition at: epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/35936 and record a video message supporting the campaign and emailing this to: SaveFGHMaternity@gmail.com 'Thousand Voices' can be contacted by phone at :
0797 407 8814 and updates are posted on Facebook: Save FGH Maternity Unit
There was an outstanding turnout of around 400 people at the Public Meeting held at the Forum from 6.00 until 7.30pm on Thursday 8th March and Mandy Telford demonstrated a high level of skill in chairing the meeting (indeed, she could teach 'Question Time' chairman Dimbleby a thing or two!) during which many people were able to air their concerns and put questions to Jackie Daniel, (UHMBT chief executive officer), Dr George Nasmyth (Trust medical director), Dr Geoff Jolliffe (lead commissioning GP for Furness) and John Woodcock (MP for Barrow and Furness). There was a good atmosphere throughout the meeting and everyone left the event satisfied that all had been given a fair opportunity to air their views on not only the status of the maternity unit but on other hospital related matters such as threatened ward closures and plans to create 'patient environmental assistants' i.e. porters will now also be required to engage in Terminal Cleans (deep cleaning operations of specific areas including any where there have been particular problems such as the highly infectious and deadly MRSA) (I'll answer the Evening Mail comment on this matter in the next posting. - Muddz) Strangely, chief executive Jackie Daniel claimed to have no knowledge of Patient Environmental Assistants but assured me she would discuss this with me 'on line'......? Perhaps she means I must contact her so I'll try to do so early next week.
Last year Furness Against the Cuts organised a public meeting at the Forum to defend the National Health Service and the Welfare State with guest speaker Dr David Wrigley, a GP based in Carnforth who is also a national executive council member of the British Medical Association and leading voice in the national Keep Our NHS Public campaign. It attracted an audience of just over twenty persons. Hire of the small Studio Theatre for 2 hours was £40, hire of the 'roving' microphone was £16 and black and white photocopied leaflets cost £10 and these costs had to be met by FAC (which was not a fund-raising organisation) through voluntary contribution by those attending the meeting and a generous donation. And this was all done by just three persons with no physical or financial assistance from any other source whatsoever. No local media interest, certainly no national TV crews, and no union interest either. Compared with the resources made available to the Thousand Voices campaign, FAC'c effort was of Cinderella status. Jealous? No. Envious? Yes, a little but this was easily offset by the pleasure of observing the success of the Thousand Voices initiative.
There is, of course a fundamental difference between the FAC campaign and that of the Thousand Voices: Thousand Voices is, essentially, a single issue campaign that could be broadened in the future but the FAC campaign was broad-based, embracing the cuts being made against jobs, benefits, care provision, pensions, privatisation of the courts, prisons and probation services, depletion of fundamental public services, reduction in social housing and inability of councils to continue supporting the voluntary sector - as well as resisting government plans to sell off our National Health Service. It also campaigned against rising living costs and 'wage freezes', against escalating gas and electricity bills, against the mega-bonuses of the bankers and financiers who had created the economic mess and against wars and the further development of nuclear weapons. At the same time, however, FAC promoted the People's Charter for Change, a charter that had been fully endorsed by delegates attending not one but two national conferences of the Trades Union Congress but local unions and Trades Union Council remained indifferent. Furness Against the Cuts is now dormant but can still be viewed at http://furnessagainstthecuts.blogspot.com