It was the best of marches. It was the best of causes.
On Saturday, nearly 1,200 people marched through the streets of our town in support of Ludlow Maternity Unit (LMU).
March leaders Sarah Meek and Alison Hiles
We could not have sent a clearer message to the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. We want the LMU to remain open with a full suite of services.
The LMU has been under threat in recent months. It was closed at no notice in October to reopen in stages two weeks later. Very shortly, it will be closed overnight, with an on-call service for mothers in labour.
Health bosses are struggling to cut £6 million from spending by the end of March. They are unhappy that rural maternity units – Ludlow, Bridgnorth and Oswestry – are more expensive than those in Shrewsbury and Telford. Last week, Simon Wright, chief executive of SaTH, refused to guarantee that funding will be available for rural maternity units after the end of March 2017.
That is why nearly 1,200 people turned out to march on Saturday.
The march was led by organisers Alison Hiles and Sarah Meek. They did a great job in getting such a huge turnout and leading such a colourful parade. It was their first experience of organising anything like this and they were phenomenal.
Thanks to Ludlow Town Council for its support, including the loan of road closure signs and high viz vests. Shropshire Council put in place the road closure orders. The march was managed by unitary councillors with more than a dozen volunteer stewards. Shropshire Defend Our NHS helped in lots of ways. West Mercia police provided support and advice before and during march. Thank you all.
And thanks to all those that joined us on the march. Our official count was that around 1,160 took part. At one point, the column of marchers stretched from the top of Station Drive back onto Tower Street.
The battle for Ludlow Maternity Unit and midwifery-led units across the county is far from over. We will need to keep vigilant and be prepared to raise voices again if the LMU is threatened.
Some of the media coverage
Shropshire Star: More than 1,000 march through Ludlow in support of maternity unit
BBC Midlands Today video
ITV News Central video
BBC Radio Shropshire: Protest over Ludlow maternity unit proposals.
More photos and coverage on the Save Ludlow Maternity Unit Facebook page.