17 January, 2006 MPs and local activists come together to fight for community hospitals Local hospital campaigners from across the country joined forces yesterday in an attempt to prevent a wave of community hospital cuts and closures. Many Primary Care Trusts are in deficit and are under intense pressure to balance their books by April. The result is likely to be front line cuts to many local community hospitals. Representatives of Leagues of Friends, local campaign groups, MPs, Councillors, community leaders, and residents, attended a one day seminar to share campaigning tips, build alliances and develop strategies to reverse the cutbacks to such vital, local health services. The seminar comes less than ten weeks after the launch of CHANT (Community Hospitals Acting Nationally Together), a cross-party umbrella organisation set up to lobby Ministers, and raise awareness of the nation-wide threat to community hospitals. The group is chaired by Graham Stuart MP and the vice-chair is Boris Johnson MP. CHANT is supported by more than 40 MPs including Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and Independent members. Chairman of CHANT, Graham Stuart MP, said: 'This joint conference between CHANT and the Community Hospitals Association aims to support all those who are concerned about the future of their community hospital services. It will develop a network of support for campaigners who are battling hard to save their local health services.' Over 80 community hospitals, including Townlands hospital in Henley, are currently under threat. The seminar included sessions on potential legal challenges to cutbacks and allowed campaigners to share tips and advice on working with the press and lobbying politicians. Vice Chairman, Boris Johnson MP, commented: 'It is appalling to see these vital hospitals facing such an unprecedented threat. If the Government persists with this policy, it should have the decency to explain the logic of this frankly bizarre decision to the British public, rather than continuing to hold up its hands and pointing the blame at the PCT's, who are after all, unelected and unaccountable.'