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Editor’s shiner sparks successful campaign

A black eye sustained by a local newspaper editor while playing football has led to a successful campaign to prevent a hospital emergency service being downgraded.

Bucks Free Press editor Steve Cohen, pictured left, was taken to Wycombe Hospital at 11pm after suffering the injury in April.

At the time, NHS chiefs had been planning a controversial downgrade of the hospital, with a view to converting it into a minor injuries unit.

But Steve was amazed to find the hospital’s emergency ward “rammed full” with children and adults with serious problems and asked reporters to make further inquiries about the plans.

When pressed, officials could not guarantee the unit would remain 24-hours a day, and suggested patients could be asked to use a GP out-of-hours service instead.

However this would have left non-emergency patients having to wait until the next day, or contemplating a trip Stoke Mandeville Hospital, about 15 miles away.

The Free Press and sister title the South Bucks Star quickly launched a petition, with 468 names collected within a ten day period – just in time for the end of a public consultation.

An online petition was then launched by local campaign group Save Our Hospital Services, which was signed by 6,844 people over the last month.

Now NHS chiefs have said, in a report published last week, that they plan to keen the service open round the clock after all.

The report said:  “It is recommended that…in the light of concerns expressed during the consultation phase and subsequently, plans are developed for a 24/7 urgent care service at Wycombe Hospital.”

Said Steve:  “I thank health officials for taking our views seriously and acting on them. But I will reserve any real celebrations for the time when the new unit is open and working to a standard the public would expect of any A&E-type unit.

“Yes it’s a great victory for people power – but the fat lady hasn’t sung on this one yet.”

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  • May 31, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Well done Steve and the group which campaigned but it’s a great pity more people didn’t sign the petitions. Hundreds of thousands of people live in the hospital’s area yet only a small number (468) protested via the paper which has a circulation of about 18,000 and then free distribution of another paper to many thousands of more homes with the same appeal for support. More than 50,000 read about the petition appeal, I hear, but very few signed the petition.
    People don’t care till it’s too late. Loss of a full well equipped casualty dept in a highly populated well heeled area beside the M40. Alternative now is a 15 mile trek/dash for treatment. No major accident unit in High Wycombe now.
    It shows that strident local press campaigns can be met with a lot of apathy.

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