The long-term future of Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital could be under threat, campaigners told shoppers on Sunday.
The campaigners were seeking names on a petition urging the scrapping of a clause in a new Health Bill.
They say clause 119, which will be debated by MPs today, Tuesday March 11, would give the power to close hospitals solely to the health minister and pose a grave threat to smaller NHS facilities, such as the QEH.
The petition was organised by the local trades unions organisation, the King’s Lynn and District Trades Council, and secretary JoAnne Rust said: “The hospital authorities constantly reassure us that there is no plan to close it ... But, of course, they would say that.
“We also know that services at the hospital are being removed bit by bit.
“Women cannot have terminations there after a certain number of weeks, blood services are being transferred, the mortuary is being run down.
“The pattern is one of moving services to the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and other hospitals.”
Ms Rust said it was “almost like an open secret” that the NHS would like to close the QEH at some point in the future.
She said she was worried by evidence that local GPs were not referring patients direct to A&E at the hospital under instructions from their governing body, the Clinical Commissioning Group.
If a hospital’s A&E had a “footfall” of under 50,000 patients a year then it was at risk of being closed.
She said: “The hospital say the QEH won’t be closed because it is more than 40 miles away from another major hospital. But that argument won’t have any weight if clause 119 is passed.”
Ms Rust said that they got about 100 names in two hours on the petition.
“There was incredible support,” she said. “People were quite happy to stop and engage us in conversation,”
Yesterday, Ms Rust wrote to the Conservative MP for North West Norfolk Henry Bellingham urging him to oppose the bill.
But a spokesman from the QEH dismissed any speculation that there is a threat to the hospital’s future in the short, medium or long term.
He said: “The future of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital remains unchanged – we can confirm there are no plans to close either the hospital or the Emergency Department and we continue to provide the highest levels of care and support for our patients and the community we serve.”