Petition against NHS cuts to be handed over to Carlisle MP
More than 2,300 people have signed a petition opposing cuts to NHS services in Cumbria and countrywide.
The signatures will be handed over to Carlisle MP John Stevenson at his city centre office later today, where a street protest will also take place.
They have been collected by members of the Carlisle Socialist Party (SP) as part of a wider protest against controversial cuts to beds and services across north and west Cumbria, and national NHS cuts.
The campaign is also backed by local members of the Unite union.
The petition calls on Conservative Mr Stevenson to push the Government to abandon controversial plans for the health service, and provide it with the necessary resources to meet patients’ needs.
Members of Carlisle SP have been active in the 'Save Our NHS' campaign, led by Cumbria Health Campaigns Together.
They supported a national demonstration in London back in March and two well-attended rallies in Carlisle, in April and June.
The petition opposes plans, drawn up by the Government's Success Regime, to downgrade services - including consultant-led maternity and the children's ward - at the West Cumberland Hospital and close community hospital beds in Wigton, Maryport and Alston.
Decisions about the future of maternity services are currently subject to an independent review, ordered by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in light of local concerns. He will have the final say.
More than 2,350 signatures were collected at weekly city centre stalls. Half of these were from Carlisle and half elsewhere, including Brampton, Wigton, Maryport, Workington and Whitehaven.
Brent Kennedy, secretary of Carlisle SP, believes cuts are part of a wider agenda to privatise the NHS.
"The imposition of student tuition fees has driven would-be nurses away, only increasing the existing shortage of qualified nurses.
"This, and the shortage of doctors and other staff, has already led to bed closures in the Cumberland Infirmary and the hospital in Alston. I know from personal experience that waiting times for consultations, operations and treatment are getting longer. And this is before winter arrives.
“The Tories are deliberately causing a crisis in the NHS to force desperate patients to shell out thousands of pounds for private treatment or drive them into the arms of the private health insurance vultures."
Members of the Unite Community Cumbria Branch will also be attending today's street protest and petition handover.