Rolling Stones legend Keith Richards joined thousands of protesters for a rally and march against hospital cuts.

A record-breaking crowd of up to 15,000 people brought the streets and roads of Chichester to a standstill in a mass show of support for the city's St Richard's Hospital.

The 62-year-old rock star, who lives in West Wittering, near Chichester, was wearing a long black leather coat, trilby and sunglasses and was joined by his family for the march.

Other well known faces at the event included actors Christopher Timothy and Patricia Routledge, who both spoke about their support for the hospital and the need for it to keep its services.

Speeches were also made by MPs Andrew Tyrie, Nick Gibb and Nick Herbert and St Richard's consultant Marjory Greig.

Hospital workers including doctors, nurses and support staff plus local GPs were among the crowd as they marched through the streets from Chichester College to Priory Park.

Many were wearing campaign T-shirts, waving banners and blowing whistles as they marched and the speeches were received with cheers and applause.

A spokeswoman for Keith Richards said: "Keith is a long-standing member of the West Wittering community and is pleased to lend his support to local efforts to save St Richard's.

"It is a vital local amenity for not only residents but for visitors and holiday-makers."

The event was organised by the Support St Richard's group who are battling proposals drawn up by West Sussex Primary Care Trust (PCT).

The PCT is running a public consultation which would lead to there being just one major hospital in West Sussex.

The plans have put vital services such as accident and emergency and consultant-led maternity at risk at St Richard's, Worthing Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

Campaigners are warning lives will be put at risk if patients have to travel further for urgent treatment.

Support St Richard's member Abigail Rowe said she was delighted with the turnout for the event yesterday, which is one of the biggest ever seen in Chichester.

She said: "If that doesn't send a message to the PCT about what people think about the plans then I don't know what will.

"Everything went really smoothly and the reaction was overwhelming. I would like to thank everybody who came out and helped everything go so well.

"It was a real show of strength and a completely united voice helped put the message across that we want St Richard's to keep its services.

"We now need people to get their letters and responses to the consultation sent in to the PCT as quickly as possible.

"There are just two weeks left to go and we need to make sure everyone's views are known."

A spokesman for Sussex Police said the march passed peacefully without any problems.

The public consultation ends on November 14.

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