Free Press leads hospital protest

The Bucks Free Press has organised a protest against plans to move services away from the town’s hospital.

The demonstration was part of a campaign at the High Wycombebased paper that began in March.

Editor Steve Cohen described it as the most important issue he has encountered in his 15 years at the paid-for weekly.

He said readers had made “very emotive appeals literally begging us to do what we can to help”.

Hundreds of local residents took part in a protest after the paper invited readers to voice their concerns over proposals to switch the maternity and children’s services from High Wycombe to Aylesbury 20 miles away.

The paper organised a public address system, crush barriers, marshals and St John Ambulance personnel at the event, which took place outside a public consultation meeting on the issue.

Cohen said: “We were really happy with the response and now hope we can go on and win our campaign.”

Cohen, who chairs the Save Hospital Services Committee, said: “It’s our role to safeguard the interests of local people. Readers have said they knew nothing about it until we brought it to their attention.”

The Bucks Free Press has already tasted some success in its campaign.

Originally a decision on the proposals was due in May but it has now been postponed until the end of June.

Cohen said: “Public protests are absolutely vital but we need to gather evidence of the damage this will do to the community. Fortunately we have more time to do this now.”

The Free Press has enlisted the support of TV presenters Fern Britton and Lorraine Kelly. Britton, whose twin sons were cared for in the hospital’s special care baby unit, called the ward “a little piece of heaven on earth”.

By Gareth Bethell

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