Redditch Alexandra Hospital rally attracts about 150

Save the Alex protesters outside Redditch Town Hall Protesters say the closure would mean a journey of up to 25 miles for emergency treatment

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About 150 people have joined a rally to fight plans that could see the accident and emergency unit (A&E) close at a Worcestershire hospital.

Last month the trust which runs hospitals in Redditch, Kidderminster and Worcester announced a shake-up of services in a bid to save £50m by 2015.

The options included the possible closure of the A&E and maternity units at Redditch's Alexandra Hospital.

Campaigners gathered outside Redditch Town Hall ahead of a public meeting.

Arranged by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, the meeting is part of a consultation to explain the proposals.

Campaigners said the rally outside would demonstrate the strength of feeling against the plans, which they said could mean a journey of up to 25 miles for emergency treatment.

Neil Stote, of Save the Alex campaign, said about 20,000 people had signed a petition calling for the hospital's A&E and maternity unit to remain.

At the scene

The atmosphere was lively with protest chants led by Neil Stote of the Save the Alex campaign.

There was medical-themed music being played in front of the building ahead of the meeting, such as Comfortably Numb by Scissor Sisters and Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees.

People were lining up to be interviewed to say why they wanted the Alexandra Hospital's A&E to remain.

The clear message from protesters was they believed lives would be lost if they had to travel further away in emergencies.

Grace Motteram, 74, said both her husband and herself had attended A&E several times and she "feared for the future" if it was lost.

She added: "We fought to get this hospital."

"These are unplanned services," he said.

"You can't plan when you are going to give birth or need an A&E. My daughter was born within 20 minutes of getting to the maternity unit at the Alex."

He said the protest aimed to get more people at the public meeting at the town hall so their views and stories could be heard by the trust.

Mr Stote said protesters would be prepared to discuss other changes, such as over specialist hospital services.

Wayne Bates, teacher and Labour candidate for Studley ward, was at the protest with his two children. He said: "The concern is that this proposal will become a reality.

"Hopefully the [Save the Alex] campaign will 'nip it in the bud'.

"The proposal as it stands will cost lives."

Mr Bates said his four-year-old daughter was born at the Alexandra Hospital by cesarean section and had to be resuscitated.

"I doubt she would be here if we had to travel to Worcester," he said.

The hospital trust said its budget shortfall was caused by the rising cost of drugs and people living longer.

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