Former councillor and hospital campaigner Jean Ashworth has died

Date published: 16 April 2024

Former Rochdale councillor and prominent local health campaigner Jean Ashworth has died peacefully at home after a short illness, her family has confirmed.

Posting on social media, Jean’s son Steven said that his “amazing, strong and inspirational mum” had passed away on 12 April, “surrounded by the family she loved and who loved her more than words can say.”

Tributes have poured in for Mrs Ashworth from the people of Rochdale, describing her as “one of a kind,” “working tirelessly” and “a remarkable lady who was not afraid to stand up and be counted.”

Mrs Ashworth was first elected to Rochdale Borough Council in 2004 for the Smallbridge and Firgrove ward where she lived for over 50 years with her husband, Allan.

She said at the time that she decided to stand because “I have always been outspoken and not afraid to speak my mind; I care deeply about the area and community I live in and believe that I have made a difference to local issues.”


Councillor Jean Ashworth and Paul Rowen MP with Councillor Ashworth's  letters  of support
Councillor Jean Ashworth and Paul Rowen MP pictured in 2008


The mother and grandmother remained a councillor until 2012, losing her seat after defecting from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservatives, and described the “best thing” about the Smallbridge and Firgrove ward as “definitely the people.”

A former nurse at Birch Hill and Rochdale Infirmary, Jean retired after 32 years’ service in the NHS in 2009. She began working at Birch Hill in the laundry department in 1977 before working nights as an auxiliary nurse for 10 years when her children were growing up.

After gaining her level 3 nursing qualification, Jean moved to Rochdale Infirmary in 2001 where she worked on the children’s ward after the closure of Birch Hill.

She remained passionate about the importance of local health services “as health affects all of us and should remain non-political,” becoming an active campaigner to save local hospital services.


'Save our Services' public march - Saturday 26 March 2011


In 2010, Mrs Ashworth and the late Father Arthur Neary delivered a petition to Downing Street, signed by 33,000 residents, opposing the removal of services at the local hospital.

The following year, Jean organised a 400-strong public rally from Rochdale Town Hall to the Infirmary in protest of the closures of the A&E department and the maternity unit that summer.

She also presented a petition of 8,000 names to the council stating a vote of no confidence in the now-defunct Pennine Acute Trust – which ran the hospital before being transferred to the Northern Care Alliance in 2021 – and vowed to challenge “further cutbacks and fight for the return of a safer service.”

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