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Mail's pressure wins four week extension to hospital debate

More than 200 people went to a meeting organised by the Birmingham Mail in response to public interest in changes to the local health service.

A major row has blown up in West Birmingham and Sandwell concerning hospital services.

The local hospital trust is planning to scale down and eventually close two hospitals and build a new “super-hospital”.

There is widespread concern locally that before the new hospital is built, the area could be left without important facilities.

The Mail’s Paul Fulford said: “The Birmingham Mail organised a Big Debate in the area on Tuesday night so that a people could put their questions to an expert panel.

“There was a feeling that people had not been properly consulted and a suspicion that views were not being taken on board by the hospital trust.

“The result was that the trust agreed to extend the public consultation period to allow the community to have a bigger say.”

Angry residents and health workers confronted hospital chiefs in stormy clashes over plans to scale back vital services at the meeting, which was chaired by editor Steve Dyson.

He said in the paper: “The consultation – supposedly more than half complete – appears to have failed.

“Very few of the 200 people who attended our Big Debate had even heard of the plans until they read about them in the Birmingham Mail.

“The trust has this newspaper’s and most people’s full backing to surge ahead with the £700m new hospital at Smethwick to replace some ageing City and Sandwell units. But the intermediate plans needed before that brave new future are not fully ready.”

The people power story – which has extended the consultation period by a month – has captured public interest locally and was also picked up by Radio 5.