Saturday, October 27, 2012

Longworth Hospital Occupation 1981

COHSE members had always been at the forefront of the campaign to defend NHS services.

In early December 1980 a brave fight was waged by COHSE nurses and NHS staff to keep open a rural 50 beded care of the elderly hospital called Longworth in Oxfordshire. 

Faced with immediate closure of 13 beds on the top floor of the hospital, staff knew it would only be a matter of time before the rest of the hospital would be closed and the patients transferred to Whitney hospital eight miles away

So with held from Oxford Trades Union Council the hospital was occupied by the eighty nursing and support staff. 

Assistant COHSE Steward Myra Bungay stated to the Health Service Journal

"We're fighting for the life of the hospital.........Most of the patients have been here a long time and Longworth is now home to them"

The refusal of Ambulancemen to remove patients from the hospital also strengthened the occupation.

Typically the Royal College of Nursing General secretary Catherine Hall condemned the action demanding that the "Management regain control of the hospital for the sake of nurses and patients" local Rcn Regional Officer Bill Reynolds said"The AHA have lost all control of the hospital" he also claimed a Rcn steward at the hospital had been transferred to another hospital "because the AHA cannot guarantee her safety"

However the courageous fight was to be a brief one, In early February (Tuesday 10th ?) 1981, in a surprise raid by management, the vulnerable patients were removed from the hospital by force and moved to the Churchill Hospital.

As was well documented many of the frail elderly patients now seriously disorientated did not survive many weeks after they were ripped from their homes and the staff the knew (later know as the relocation effect

Police sealed off roads around the hospital to prevent supporters defending the hospital.

The Area Health authority claimed it had raided the hospital because COHSE nurses refused to call off the work-in

Ernie Brook COHSE Regional Officer stated " The Area Health Authority gave verbal assurances it would retain the beds for the next three or four years, when I went to receive its written assurance of the agreement, this sticking point was not included"

"Our COHSE members had fought bravely to defend patient care and the hospital'

Longworth Hospital closed soon after the occupation.