Thousands of people took to the streets of Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Whitchurch on Saturday to protest against the proposed closure of three community hospitals in Shropshire.
The hospitals' League of Friends-led march gathered at Ludlow Castle as protesters walked through the town, past the hospital before assembling for a rally in front of St Peter's Church.
A speech by a local GP followed, as the group handed over a petition, with more than 10,000 signatures, to Philip Dunne (Cons, Ludlow), to present to Parliament.
Chairman of Ludlow Hospital's League of Friends, Elaine Ward, said the action was necessary as health bosses look for ways of relieving debts of £36 million.
A Shropshire County Primary Care Trust report contained ten cost-cutting options, two of which have involved the future of the three rural hospitals. One proposal is to close all three, forcing patients and relatives to travel at least 30 miles to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital, while the other is to increase productivity at the existing hospitals.
Mrs Ward said: "It went very well indeed. More than 4,000 people attended the march, of all age groups, people in wheelchairs, the disa-bled in their scooters, young children and even people with walking disabilities.
"Matthew Green, who was a member of parliament for Ludlow and Bridgnorth and our current MP, were present.
"It was a major success. The weather was not too good, it started sleeting half way through the march, but it did not stop people joining the protest. We have a group, who will meet shortly and we have some plans in the pipeline."
Clive Walsh, the PCT's programme director, said consultations to find a solution to the authorities' debt problems were ongoing.
"Even among the key stake holders, there was a lot of support for retaining the community hospitals in Shropshire," he said.
"The issue for the NHS is that we have a very great financial problem in the area and either we have to save money by closing community hospitals or make them much more efficient and therefore improve NHS facilities and resources.
"There are some genuine concerns from the public and very good reasons why they should be raising them, such as the travelling time from these rural areas to, say, Shrewsbury for patients and relatives.
"We commissioned a report from Finnamore Consultants which came back with about ten options, which included two concerning community hospitals - we can either close them all or make better use of these facilities. However, this is not a done deal.
"Bridgnorth has had £6.5 million to basically rebuild the hospital, and it's already received £2 million of that, so it would be a waste of money if we closed it so that's certainly an argument for keeping it open."
Liz Owen, chairman of the PCT, said: "We are currently coming up with proposals that will be out for public consultation, we hope, by the end of February."