AN estimated 2,000 people marched along Eastbourne seafront to protest against controversial plans to centralise key services at either the DGH or its sister hospital in Hastings.
Organisers of the Save the DGH demonstration had hoped for a turn-out of more than 5,000 but said they were far from disappointed despite less than half that figure showing up.
Liz Walke, who heads the campaign group, said the figure could have been higher than the police estimate and that around 5,000 copies of a letter to health minister Jeremy Hunt were handed out on Saturday.
And she was confident the response reaffirmed the Save the DGH mandate to continue campaigning on behalf of the people of Eastbourne.
She said, “We were really pleased. It was a great turnout and I think it shows people are definitely behind us.
“The number of letters were handed out was also encouraging – hopefully Jeremy Hunt will be getting a lot of post over the next week or so.
“A lot of people could not make it through no fault of their own.
“A lot of people were taking their children to university, on holiday, at work or going out for the day.
“We were told if it had been on a Sunday afternoon we would have probably attracted ten times as many.
“Words cannot truly express our grateful thanks to all who turned up on Saturday. You did not turn up in your hundreds but thousands. We now have our renewed mandate to fight the current proposals and will keep doing so.”
The march was organised in response to East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust’s plans to centralise stroke, general surgery and orthopaedics on a single site rather than at both main hospitals in the area.
A defiant Ms Walke said, “We believe core services are not negotiable. When it’s an emergency you need to arrive at the place to be treated very quickly - time matters. If these services go, it is inevitable that others, such as maternity and paediatrics, will soon follow.”
The campaign has received cross-party support and the town’s MP, Stephen Lloyd, said, “Saturday was just absolutely fantastic. Local residents turned out in their droves to support our fight to stop core services being downgraded at the DGH. I really am profoundly grateful to the town for turning out when we needed them.
“I was actually anxious we would only get about 500 and we got more than 2,000 which was amazing.
“It was just brilliant.”