CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save Chesham Hospital are sending an urgent wake-up call to people living in the town, urging them to take part in the last public consultation meeting on Thursday.

The final debate is now being held at Chesham High School, Whitehill at 7.30pm before the consultation process closes on August 6.

The Save Chesham Hospital group (SaCH) has identified two main areas of concern with the Chiltern and South Bucks Primary Care Trust hospital proposal.

And SaCH, in a press statement entitled "Wake Up Chesham", insists that everyone in the town and surrounding district should write to the PCT.

The trust wants to move the beds from Chesham Hospital to Amersham Hospital and transfer out-patient services to buildings in Berkhamsted Road that have yet to be built.

SaCH says it is concerned about the loss of beds from Chesham and the ability of Amersham Hospital to cope with this influx, especially in the light of an ageing population increasing the demand for beds in the next few years.

However, increased demand is not likely says the PCT.

Dr Vivian McVey, member of Chiltern and South Bucks Trust Board, said: "The reliance on beds is expected to go down, due to better treatment and prevention strategy at the primary care stage."

But she added: "The Amersham ward is flexible enough to expand from 21 beds to 28 if necessary."

SaCH is also worried that there will be a gap in local out-patient services if the favoured option is selected by the PCT leaving Chesham residents without any local health service facilities for up to four years whilst the new building in Berkhamsted Road is being built.

However, the PCT says this would not be the case and out-patient services could continue to be offered in Chesham whilst building work was being completed.

Dr McVey explained that out-patient services could be offered by some of the GP practices in town by office sharing, which would bring down practice costs by making more efficient use of the surgery space.

The campaigners are sceptical. They asked: "How is it that the main purpose of the new Berkhamsted Road site is to relieve 'overcrowding' in surgeries around town and yet there is room for all these additional services in the interim?

"The truth is that these services would go to Amersham or Wycombe never to return."

The campaigners are currently pursuing whether the trust can actually legally sell off the land for development purposes. The trust, however, says all previous covenants were wiped out by the creation of the NHS, so the land can rightfully be sold off.

The PCT can be contacted at: Chesham Hospital Consultation, Chiltern and South Bucks PCCT, Freeppost SCE 15594, Amersham, HP6 5BR