A PETITION to stop the feared closure of Winchester’s emergency department has gained 6,600 signatures and is nearing its target.

The campaign aims to stop the potential relocation of the accident and emergency department to Basingstoke, from the Royal Hampshire County Hospital.

The online petition has a target of 7,000.

It argues that the A&E department should stay in Winchester because of its growing population.

The A&E department would be in a new hospital, proposed for just south of Basingstoke or at the existing Basingstoke hospital site. However, the petition says it would be too far away.

Some of the comments from petition supporters show how much of a lifeline it is for Winchester residents. One said: “I am a student at the university and suffer from chronic illness and multiple medical conditions and therefore use the emergency department at this hospital regularly.

“I am fortunate enough to live opposite it and rely on its services greatly and if it moved it would have such a negative impact on me. This hospital’s A and E department is a lifeline for me.”

Another said: “Access to Basingstoke from the southern parishes is a nightmare! We have Hospitals in Winchester, Southampton and Portsmouth, all of which have A and E departments and we need to keep them all because there are extensive new housing developments close to all these cities.”

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust say no firm decisions have been made as to the future of services.