Hundreds of campaigners braved the rain yesterday to protest against the proposed downgrading of services at a Worcestershire hospital.
Staff, patients and politicians joined forces to make their voices heard over plans to axe maternity, paediatric and gynaecology services at the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch.
The proposals, put forward by Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, would see no more births at Redditch and expectant mothers going to Worcester or Birmingham instead.
Emergency children's services would also be reconfigured, with in-patients being treated at Worcester Royal Hospital while paediatricians would operate an "eight 'til late" service at the Alexandra Hospital.
More than 200 campaigners staged a rally outside the hospital ahead of the trust board's monthly meeting.
Julie Kirkbride, Conservative MP for Bromsgrove, said: "Maternity, A&E and paediatric services are the very backbone of our local health service, and as such should be provided locally, rather than 40 minutes away in Worcester."
But a trust spokesman said: "These proposals are clinically driven. The Alex sees 1,800 deliveries a year but there are difficulties in retaining neo-natal nurses and the impact of the European Working Time Directive to consider on doctors' rotas.
"Our position has not changed but this is still very much a listening exercise and we hope to begin public consultation in the autumn, certainly before the end of this year." n Campaigners against job cuts at a Herefordshire hospital are to stage a protest rally tomorrow.
Hereford Hospital NHS Trust is losing 75 jobs in an effort to balance its books. Members of Unison will address the public under the banner "Keep the NHS Working" at the Shire Hall, Hereford, at 12 noon.