A newspaper campaign to save A&E services at a County Durham hospital will head for Downing Street on Monday.
Almost 15,000 people have signed the Wear Valley Mercury’s petition against cutbacks at Bishop Auckland General Hospital and now the signatures are to be delivered directly to Gordon Brown by Mercury deputy editor Phil Hardy.
He will be joined on the 530-mile round trip to Downing Street by representatives of the ‘Save Our Hospital’ campaign group including Bishop Auckland Mayor Alan Anderson.
The local NHS Trust is currently holding a consultation, called ‘Seizing the Future’, under which one proposal is to replace the Bishop Auckland A&E facility with a so-called urgent care centre.
If given the green light, it would mean many patients would have to travel to either Durham or Darlington to receive emergency treatment.
The indepently-owned Wear Valley Mercury launched the petition in a bid to force a change of heart which was backed by Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg and Bishop Auckland MP and assistant government whip Helen Goodman.
Editor Adrian Braddy said: “We have been stunned by the response to our campaign. It has received almost universal support.
“That so many people have taken the time to sign the petition is a real demonstration of the strength of feeling against these proposals.
“We not only want A&E services to be retained in Bishop Auckland, we want the facility returned to the point where all accidents and emergencies can be dealt with there.”
Phil Hardy added: “Bishop Auckland Hospital serves a largely rural area and transport links are not great.
“We believe it is unfair that people living in these areas are being discriminated against.
“The NHS Trust has said that the majority of people in County Durham will be better off under the proposals but this hides the fact that the minority of people – mostly those living in the Durham Dales – will be worse off.”