The commotion was caused by a leaflet distributed anonymously in Worthing entitled "Real democracy can save our hospitals" and calling for a "citizens' take-over" of the 7pm meeting at Worthing Pier.
Worthing Hospital is one of three in West Sussex threatened with downgrading under local health chiefs' ironically-labelled 'Fit for the Future' proposals.
The so-called consultation has proved a sham - residents have been locked out of meetings, key questions have gone unanswered and, of course, the obvious option of no cuts at any of the hospitals is not on the official agenda at all.
Although the local KWASH campaign has been fairly effective in holding A to B marches and the inevitable petition, it looks to be fighting a losing battle and to exist more as a pre-election vehicle for its Tory leadership than a genuine anti-cuts movement.
Murmurings of discontent in the ranks have led to the idea of stepping out of the cosy KWASH box and making it clear to the NHS money men how angry Worthing people really are at the threat to their health service.
The report in the Worthing Herald on October 4 was headed: "Police probe attempt to 'take over' meeting."
It stated: "Organisers of a major protest against hospital cuts have appealed for people not to support a plan to 'hikack' the next official event.
"Campaigners fighting to keep full, consultant-led services at Worthing and Southland say leaflets were circulated in Worthing at the weekend, encouraging people to disrupt the next major meeting, planned for Worthing on October 15.
"The unsigned leaflet invites people to invade the platform and take over the proceedings, so that a full, 'democratic' vote can take place. Police are investigating.
"Hospital campaigners want people to join a peaceful massed march before the 7pm meeting at Worthing's Pavilion Theatre, but have called on supporters to strongly reject any idea of invading the platform or disrupting the meeting.
"KWASH chairman Tom Wye said: 'This call to take over the platform is dangerous and unhelpful in the extreme. We can get the strength of feeling over without resorting to these kinds of tactics and I must stress that such action would do the cause great harm'."
The official KWASH march leaves from Homefield Park, Worthing, at 5.30pm. Other protesters are staging a mass cycle ride from Worthing station, at 5.45pm. Both protests end outside the meeting at the Pavilion Theare, Worthing Pier, which starts at 7pm.
Here is the full text of the leaflet.(Apologies to the authors for any errors in copying it out)
Real Democracy Can Save Our Hospitals
The so called consultation on the future of our local hospitals has been a complete and utter sham, as anyone who has been involved will have realized. And as it nears its end, we are left with the horrifying probablity that it is going to spell the end of Worthing Hospital as we know it.
The West Sussex Primary Care Trust meeting at the Pavillion theatre on Monday, October 15 (7 - 9pm) is the last chance for the people of Worthing to make it totally clear that we will NOT accept the downgrading of any part of our local health service and that we reject the false ‘choice’ they are offering us, playing off one vital local hopsital against another.
We cannot afford to just sit back and watch the PCT’s Powerpoint propaganda and soothing words of reassurance, and then listen to them skirt around any tricky questions we are lucky enough to be allowed to ask. All that will happen is that they will go home, breathe a sigh of relief that it’s all over, tick the box marked 'public consultation' and then go ahead and rip the heart out of our hospitals.
If we are going to have an impact on this vital issue we are going to have to refuse to play their little game by the rules they have invented. We propose that we, the people of Worthing, should peacefully but fearlessly take over the running of the October 15 meeting as soon as possible into the proceedings and replace the hollow sham they have planned for us with a powerful expression of real democracy.
In particular, we must achieve the one thing the NHS bosses are too scared to allow - a vote of all those present as to whether they support the downgrading of any of our local hospitals. If this show of hands, in addition to all the petitions, protests, etc, proves the overwhelming opposition of local people to the misnamed 'Fit for the Future' proposals, it will confirm that there is NO LEGITIMACY to any decision to downgrade.
How is it that we are supposed to live in a democracy and yet even when we all clearly express our opposition to something planned by the authorities, they ignore us and still go ahead anyway?
We have to do something! Please do your bit on October 15 by getting to the meeting early and helping the attempt at a citizens’ take-over of the meeting, either by physically joining in, by blocking any move to stop it happening or simply by applauding and supporting those taking part.
PEOPLE POWER IS THE ONLY OPTION WE HAVE LEFT!
Following the initial announcement that certain hospitals may be closed or downgraded, a sustained public relations campaign was formed being led by 'Keep Worthing and Southlands Hospitals (KWASH). This has been successful in uniting people, organising public meetings, collecting names on petitions and leading protest marches through the town. But what has actually been achieved?
Worthing Hospital is still threatened with being downgraded and losing its A&E department, intensive care, orthopaedics, maternity and other essential services.
Nothing has changed since the start of the campaign.
There are similar organisations working to save both St Richards in Chichester and Princess Royal in Haywards Heath. Both of these groups are using similar tactics and have only achieved similar results. At the moment there is only one guaranteed outcome and that is that services including A&E will be lost somewhere in West Sussex which is totally unacceptable. These campaigns have only served to divide and weaken people's effectiveness. We should be working together and saying that any closure anywhere is unacceptable.
This is where direct action comes in.
Direct action in one form or another has been used through generations, achieving results where other campaign tactics have failed. This could be by holding illegal and spontaneous protest marches, office occupations, blockades, criminal damage and other often frowned upon methods. But when you look deeper they make sense.
If those techniques currently being used were effective do you think they would be allowed? As has been learned, those that are effective have been made illegal so we are left with a moral dilemma, working within the law and being ineffective or breaking the law and achieving results.
People are scared of taking the next step. Quite understandable as the unknown can often be frightening, but when you realise the extent of the repercussions, things aren't quite as bad. There is only the law stopping you and the law is only relevant if you let it. What is a criminal record if you are retired or not working and don't need to inform anyone of it? It is worthless.
We are lucky in the hospital campaigns in the range of support that we have. Many of the supporters are of the older generation whose arrest will have few implications upon them except for the inconvenience of possible court appearances. We can use this to our advantage and already people have been speaking of taking such risks.
We have parents backing us. If someone was violently attacking or killing their children they wouldn't just stand there and ask them nicely to stop, write the attacker a letter or hold a sign or banner. They would physically intervene.
What is the difference here? The closure of A&E and intensive care could lead to the death of their child.
If you aren't prepared to fight for your loved one what are you prepared to fight for?
People are beginning to realise this.
We need to match the Primary Care Trusts (PCT) determination to close departments with our determination to keep the services open. They will use every tool in their toolbox to achieve their aim, we must use ours.
Leaders of other campaigns may say that to begin to act outside of the law or to begin a hard hitting campaign might weaken their current efforts. To this I would remind them of those that died in the concentration camps in the war. If someone dared to stand up to their oppressors they were dragged back by those being held captive for fear of reprisals. Look what happened to them all in the end. Infact it was those that took part in uprisings that had higher chances of survival than those that conformed.
Both the current and alternative methods can work effectively in conjunction with each other. There is no reason why one should weaken the other.
Hope is one of the greatest things that can be given to people to keep them quiet. If you give them hope that things will change then they will stay inside the law getting on with their lives thinking that others will achieve the results for them. This can be seen by the current low turn outs at the meetings. 500 people out of the towns 100,000 residents is not enough. We need more.
They are giving us hope, unrealistic hope. We must realise that services will be cut and that this is unacceptable. It could be your loved one that dies or someone else's. Whoever dies as a result of cutbacks and money saving is irrelevant. Life is precious and a value can't be put on such things.
The violent and illegal activities of both the suffragette and the civil rights movement were widely criticised at the time. Now those that took part are celebrated and we are thankful for their sacrifices and the methods that they chose.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a dress rehersal and we will get another chance. Once these services are lost they will be gone forever and further savings will be sought in other areas.
Taking into consideration the above, we must now ask how much we love ourselves, our friends, family and neighbours. Those that follow us wont judge us by how many signatures on a petition we collected nor how many marches we held, they will judge us only by whether we were successful or not. Let's give them reason to celebrate our actions.
Campaign for option 4