'Wellingborough needs its own A&E facility'.
That's the message from campaigners battling to bring urgent care provision to Northamptonshire's fourth biggest town.
Currently those in need of immediate medical attention in Wellingborough face a nine-mile trip to Kettering General Hospital, a 12-mile trip to Northampton General Hospital or, further afield, a 16-mile trip to Corby Urgent Care Centre.
But with traffic congestion showing no signs of improvement and thousands more homes being built on the town's fringes, a group of campaigners are stepping up their bid for an A&E facility of their own.
Wellingborough A&E Group (WAG) has already secured almost 2,000 votes of support with a new petition, including that of MP Peter Bone.
The Conservative backbencher said: "It has been my long held view that there should be urgent care facilities at the Isebrook Hospital [in Irthlingborough Road].
"Over the years I have managed to get support for this from both the MPs in Corby and Kettering, local council leaders, Government ministers, clinicians and members of the public all on a non-party political basis.”
The campaign is not the first to try and build an A&E unit in Wellingborough. In 2010 a petition with thousands of signatures was delivered to 10 Downing Street by Mr Bone.
But despite proposals to attach an urgent care facility to Isebrook Hospital, which were provisionally approved, residents still face a trip to Kettering for urgent treatment several years on.
Mr Bone said the plans had effectively stalled because of an "infrastructure investment hiatus" when Kettering General Hospital was placed in special measures in 2017. It only exited special measures and met acceptable standards in May this year.
The frustration has seen Mr Bone join WAG members to bring back the campaign. Group member John Douglas said Mr Bone's support is "invaluable".
WAG campaigners say an A&E facility at the Isebrook site would be their preferred option but that an urgent care unit, if the former is not an option, would be welcomed.
Their argument stems around the 'golden hour' - the first hour after a trauma when emergency treatment is most likely to be successful - which they claim Wellingborough residents are less likely to benefit from as they are likely to face longer waits for ambulances and longer journeys to get to a hospital.
They say a facility in Wellingborough would give residents more chance of spending the 'golden hour' in hospital rather than stuck in a traffic jam.
Group spokesman Mark Tibbert said: “With the ‘golden hour’ being so critical for effective medical care following trauma, strokes and other major injury, a journey that can end up on single carriageway roads for many miles can result in very little time left for emergency intervention - especially if someone is reliant on an ambulance reaching them first.”
Fellow group member Skye Day said: “The further you are from an A&E facility, the longer it will take before you finally get specialist care.
“In the case of a stroke, that delay can easily be the difference between full recovery and irreversible brain damage."
Last year the NHS admitted ambulance delays were linked to more than 100 known deaths.
Another group member, Brian Fernley, said: "Although the ambulance and paramedic service do an absolutely fantastic job, even with their very best endeavours, distance and road congestion is a very real issue that can realistically only be resolved with local facilities slashing the time taken for the person to be stabilised and then admitted.”
The WAG group also say that a facility in Wellingborough would reduce the burden on already-stretched hospitals in Kettering and Wellingborough.
Another group member, Steph Lee, said: “We still need people in Wellingborough and the surrounding villages to support us. Perhaps when everyone pulls together, everyone gets to benefit.”
To view the WAG petition page, visit http://wellingborough.online.