Organisers of hospital protest march hoping for a huge turn out

March organisers and campaigners Rachel Bray, Alison Marriott and Emma Wilcock
March organisers and campaigners Rachel Bray, Alison Marriott and Emma Wilcock

The organisers of a major protest march over cuts to maternity and children’s services at Boston Pilgrim Hospital believe hundreds of people will turn out to show their support on Sunday.

The SOS Pilgrim – Call to Action Stride with Pride march takes place on Sunday September 23 and those behind it are confident there will be a huge turnout of families and individuals to make their voices heard.

A handprint banner made for the march

A handprint banner made for the march

The march starts at Central Park before heading through Boston town centre and then returning to the park.

It has been organised by the SOS - Save Our Children’s Services Pilgrim Hospital group, many of whom have first hand experience of the importance of children’s services at the hospital.

They and their children have been drumming up support across Boston for the campaign.

The campaigners are concerned about changes which they say have downgraded services offered by the hospital, including children being assessed but not kept in at the children’s ward, and the threshold of when the maternity unit will accept pregnant mothers

One of the group members behind the march, Emma Wilcock, said: “We just want people to know that this march is an opportunity to show support and to say 'Hands off our hospital!'.

“It's time we all stood up and let the people making the decisions to close and downgrade our services that there is a united community across Lincolnshire and we will not stop campaigning until full services are restored on Children's Ward and the Neonatal Unit is returned to accepting babies from 30 weeks gestation.

“ We are honestly blown away by just how many people are offering words of advice and support. A lot of planning has gone in to making sure this march runs smoothly. We currently have just under 200 people on the Facebook event, but we expect this number to be far greater when we take in to account partners and children. There are also people who have been invited outside of social media and so we're expecting quite the turnout.”

The group will be selling our car stickers for £1 with all proceeds going to the SOS Pilgrim - Call to Action campaign and there will be a kids corner where children can grab a balloon, which have been donated by Pilgrim Food Services.

Emma said families can design their own banners for the march using paper and colouring crayons donated by Wilko's 'Helping Hands' initiative and they will also be selling baby grows with the proceeds from the sale going to the Neonatal Unit at Pilgrim Hospital.

Her campaigning colleague Rachel Bray said: “Th march is also to celebrate the amazing staff at the hospital, as well as to say hands off our hospital.

“The march is family friendly and a peaceful march, and we are expecting hundreds to turn out in support, from across Lincolnshire, as the changes implemented are affecting the county, with children already being transferred from pilgrim to Peterborough, Grimsby & Queens Medical Centre Nottingham, due to the 12 hour restrictions on the new paediatric assessment unit.

"We need people to stand up and be counted and show their support, as we want the re-instatement if the inpatient ward and neonatal gestational age to return to 30 weeks as soon as possible, as that’s what our children deserve.”

She pointed out that Families can make an afternoon of it as there is fair in Central Park at the weekend.

Timetable of march:

12pm: Meet the SOS Pilgrim - Call to Action team, with interviews, banner making, car sticker sales and baby grow sales

12.40pm: Speeches from campaigners

1pm: March starts after a minutes silence for “all angels in heaven”

1.45pm: March ends, speech by councillor Paul Gleeson

1.50pm: With A Little Help From My Friends to be sung by The Biz

1.55pm: Final thank you speech from Emma Wilcock

2pm: Further chance to meet the campaign teams and talk about the issues

3pm: Event closes

The march route will go down Park Gate and on to Wide Bargate, through the centre of town and around the front of St Botolph's Church before retracing their steps back to Central Park.