A CAMPAIGN calling for the reinstatement of 16 beds at the Cumberland Infirmary - and a stop to further planned bed closures - is gathering momentum.

Protesters held up their placards on Saturday to make their presence known and to send a clear message.

It comes after the 16-bed Aspen gynaecological ward closed last month - part of plans to remove up to 100 beds from the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals.

Denton Holme councillor Ruth Alcroft, Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary Candidate, said: "We are not asking for the earth, we are asking for these beds to be protected. If we are already starting from a point where beds are under pressure, why are we taking them away?"

She and fellow campaigners worrythe affects of the bed closures are already being felt and that it will only get worse.

The campaign gained Carlisle City Council’s backing when Ms Alcroft put forward a motion. Meanwhile, a petition, calling for the closures to be reversed, has now been signed by more than 1,300 people.

If they could reach 10,000 signatures - a long-term goal - they could take their fight to Downing Street.

"There is a lot of passion for this cause. There were claims that this is simply a management issue and that the Labour Party is against change and progress - that absolutely couldn't be further from the truth," said Ms Alcroft.

"We'd love to see them reverse the decision. It's two years since the Red Cross said there was humanitarian crisis in the NHS. Last year thousands of operations were cancelled across the country and that has left a lot of people in pain and discomfort.

"People don't have the confidence that the beds are there and this is where we're coming from."

Health chiefs say they are caring for more people at home so don’t need as many beds but Ms Alcroft says this is putting greater stress on social care which is already under pressure.

David Niven, the Labour party’s vice-chair, added that members are continuing to call for the Cumberland Infirmary’s Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract to be scrapped - with£185m still owed to the Department of Health by North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust.

“We think issues like the closure of the beds is a direct result of having a PFI contract,” he said. “We are paying all this money back that could otherwise be spent on healthcare.”

It’s something the trust’s chief executive Stephen Eames has said he would welcome the opportunity to review.

Brent Kennedy, of Carlisle Socialist Party, is also continuing to fight for the re-instatement of community beds. “One of the arguments now is that people are staying in hospital longer than they need to because there is no social care for them,” he said.