THE decision by Burton MP Andrew Griffiths to back the fight to save a psychiatric centre ‘has given the disempowered, marginalised and frightened real hope’, according to the campaign leader.
Dr Matt Long, head of the Friends of Margaret Stanhope Forum, spoke after Mr Griffiths said he ‘will campaign strongly’ to save the unit, located on the Outwoods site of Burton’s Queen’s Hospital, if moves are made to axe it.
The campaign leader said that with the long-awaited consultation over the centre’s future due to start in September, the Tory backbencher’s ‘direct and clear line of action could not have been more timely or appropriate’ and had given forum supporters a ‘lift’.
“We can be proud of our MP who has shown real leadership in choosing to be so pro-active on this matter and has sent out an unequivocal message to NHS management,” Dr Long said.
“What he has pledged is to attempt to ensure the consultation is not a charade and meaningful and has indicated in no uncertain terms that he has nailed his sails to the proverbial mast and will fight any proposed closure.”
The campaigner indicated that Mr Griffiths’ intervention had given a fillip to forum supporters who had long argued there was a danger the consultation could see them miss out on a genuine opportunity to make a substantive contribution.
He said it had also boosted those who felt uneasy about making their protest public as they continued to suffer from prejudice surrounding mental illness.
“Andrew Griffiths’ intervention gives the disempowered, marginalised and frightened the prospect of real hope for the future,” Dr Long said.
“It’s given us renewed belief and made us all wake up and realise that we can actually win this fight to keep the facility open.
“We had tremendous support from the previous Labour MP, Janet Dean, who bent over backwards to publicly back us even after her political retirement, and now to have our Conservative MP adding his support is fantastic.”
Mr Griffiths set out his stall in a letter to Andrew Donald, the director of commissioning development for Staffordshire healthcare funders and the official who will oversee the consultation.
The MP stressed the need to hold ‘a genuine consultation’ and said he would continue to oppose any move to close the Margaret Stanhope, which he said should continue to offer ‘excellent service’.
Dr Long said: “The people of Burton must take their lead from our MP and fight the good fight until the race to save our much-needed Margaret Stanhope is run.”