Campaigners took to the streets yesterday to protest against the loss of vital services at Warwick Hospital.

About 50 people marched from Shire Hall, Market Square, Warwick, to the hospital in Lakin Road and released 158 balloons, one to mark each year it has been serving the community.

Angry patients, nursing leaders, union members and hospital staff, some waving banners in support of the campaign, joined the march.

They fear services at the cash-strapped hospital will face the axe following the publication of a services review at the end of next month and that there will be staff job losses.

Nurse Karen Scarrott, aged 39, of Stratford Road Warwick, organised the event in support of the hospital where she has worked for 21 years.

She said: "My major fear is that some major decisions are being made behind closed doors that do not involve the community.

"Warwick Hospital is a large umbrella organisation and once you take away the vital services it will collapse.

"I have seen how wonderful the care is that is given in a working environment that is not always easy and the staff always give 101 per cent.

"This is now the time for the community to come together to speak out to save our hospital and our services." Mrs Scarrott attended yesterday's march with her mother and father Tina and Les Kent of Ilex Court, Warwick.

Mrs Kent retired after 41 years as a nurse at Warwick Hospital and Mr Kent, aged 61, has also worked there for more than three decades.

Mr Kent said: "We are local fighters who are determined to go the distance to keep this hospital for the future of the community.

"We believe that, with the burgeoning population of Warwick, not only do we need to retain the services but we all agree that we should even be thinking in terms of expanding services at the hospital we love."

Hospital volunteer, Martyn Bradley, aged 51 of St Peter's Road, Wellesbourne, said elderly and disabled patients would not be able to get to the nearest hospital, University Hospital in Walsgrave, Coventry, if Warwick Hospital was forced to close.

He said: "Walsgrave is too far away and is so big that you are just a number. You do not get the personal touch like you do at Warwick. The staff there maintain a first class service."

Nobody from South Warwickshire Hospitals Trust, which runs Warwick Hospital, was available for comment.