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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Doctor plans to fight West seat
Cheltenham General
Dr Hodges is campaigning on an independent ticket
A junior doctor is to stand for election in Cheltenham in protest over a shake-up in children's services.

Dr Robert Hodges, who is 29 and works at Cheltenham General Hospital, wants to stop its Battledown ward being down-graded.

In the 2001 general election, retired consultant physician Dr Richard Taylor, won Wyre Forest on an independent ticket with a majority of 17,630 votes.

The Cheltenham seat has been held since 1992 by Lib Dem Nigel Jones.

In February, health bosses announced plans to locate specialist in-patient care for children and neo-natal intensive care at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.

My ticket is entirely to save the children's ward
Dr Hodges

The 26-bed Battledown ward in Cheltenham will remain open.

But Dr Hodges told the BBC: "It is staying open as a shadow of its former self, becoming an assessment unit during the day that cannot take ill children overnight.

"This will leave Gloucestershire with 44 inpatient beds in one place - against 90 a year ago."

"My ticket is entirely to save the children's ward. We want to further the public campaign to save the ward. We feel everyone is being ignored."

Other candidates

Dr Hodges was supported in his appeal by the majority of the other candidates standing in Cheltenham.

Lib Dem Martin Horwood, who hopes to replace Mr Jones, said: "We have been supportive of the Battledown campaign throughout its existence. I signed the petition before I was elected as PPC."

Tory candidate Vanessa Gearson, said: "Anything that secures the retention of the ward as a 24 hour facility in Cheltenham is to be applauded. We welcome his commitment."

Christopher Evans, for Labour, said: "Battledown ward is not closing: three out of four people will continue to be treated there and there are no proposals to move any other services to Gloucester."

Dancing Ken Hanks, from the Monster Raving Loony Party, added: "I took part in a couple of marches about this and am against the ward being moved. I have had my own children in Battledown and know what a wonderful service they provide."

Niall Warry, for UKIP, said: "We will fight to keep the children's hospital in Cheltenham. We are against centralisation and bureaucracy."

And Keith Bessant, for the Greens, said: "He is highlighting an important issue about the unacceptable downgrading of our hospital, but the real issue here should be about the creeping costly privatisation of our NHS."