As the consultation on the future of community healthcare in North Derbyshire enters its final stages, campaigners say many people still ‘know nothing’ about the proposals.
The plans would see a number of the county’s smaller hospitals - including Bolsover - closing their doors, with patients being cared for at home instead.
However, campaigners believe the consultation - from new healthcare body ‘21st Century Joined-Up Care’- has not been publicised widely enough and have decided to do the job themselves.
Chris Norman, who has been a porter at the hospital for the last eight years, was one of the organisers of an event last week at the Parish Rooms in Old Bolsover where residents were being asked to fill in the consultation form there and then.
He said: “We are not happy with the way they have advertised the consultation - there are many people in this area who still know nothing about it.
“It has made us think they are trying to bring the changes in by the back door - they should have sent it out to everyone affected.”
Chris’ colleague, Christian Spray, who has been a porter at the hospital for 20 years, agreed: “We have actually been going door-to-door delivering the leaflets ourselves and we have a permanent stall in the town centre as well.
“Just having the leaflets in GP surgeries is not enough - we needed to raise more awareness.”
Both men are adamant Bolsover Hospital remains a valuable asset - and they certainly seem to have many members of the public on side as well.
The campaign has a Facebook page with almost 800 members, and around 2,600 people have signed their petition - 1,000 on paper and another 1,600 online.
At last week’s event, a steady stream of concerned health service users came to the Parish Rooms to sign the group’s petition and fill in copies of the consultation form.
Anne Wiley worked in administration at the hospital for 14 years until she left last year.
She said her mother used the day unit during her illness and without it the family would have been ‘lost’.
“She used to look forward to interacting with other people - it was a little trip out,” she explained.
“If people are going to be cared for in the community they are not going to get the same standard of care.
“The carers will have half an hour with them if that.”
Sharon Tolmare said her mother was also cared for there after she had a stroke.
“The staff helped her get back on her feet - literally.
“How are they going to organise this? At the hospital they have all the staff there but if people are being cared for at home things will get lost in translation.
“The home carers won’t have enough time to spend with them.”
Others thought the consequences of the closure had not been fully thought through and some questioned the arguments being put forward by 21C - a consortium of North Derbyshire health bodies which includes both clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Scarcliffe resident, Alan Steward, said: “There are another 1,200 houses going to be built in this area soon so rather than getting rid of these services I think they should be adding to them.
“I think the plan is to put more and more responsibility for their own care on older people themselves - but if they are doing that then what I have I been paying into all my life?”
And Tom Sanders, who worked at the hospital as a health and safety adviser for more than 13 years, said: “We are being told the hospital is ‘not sustainable’ but there aren’t closures happening in the south of the county so if it not sustainable here then why is it sustainable there?”
A spokesperson for 21st Century Joined-Up Care said: “To help make people aware of the proposals and how they can give us their views we have distributed over 30,000 consultation documents, delivered a postcard to every household in northern Derbyshire and arranged 18 public meetings and almost 20 drop-in sessions which have so far been attended by over 1000 people.
“We have also met with any interested groups who have asked to meet with us and worked with all the local NHS providers to reach both staff and patients.
“The consultation has featured widely in local print and broadcast media, engaging the public and letting them know how they can give their thoughts on the proposals.”
The consultation finishes on October 5. You can still have your say at www.joinedupcare.org.uk.