Campaigners consider taking hospital closure plan to court

Protests against the changes to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary
Protests against the changes to Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

Campaigners are considering whether to launch a legal challenge over plans to demolish Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and replace it with a small site without an A&E department.

Dozens of people are expected to attend a public meeting organised by the Hands Off HRI campaign at Huddersfield Methodist Mission on Lord Street this evening at 7pm.

The campaign’s solicitors Irwin Mitchell are to use the meeting to set out the case for challenging the decision to approve the business case that supports the proposal.

Yogi Amin, from Irwin Mitchell, is to explain how legal proceedings could be instigated – and the potential costs for doing so.

The business case was approved after local councillors approved the hospital closure proposals to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

A spokesman for the campaign group said: “We have been out in Huddersfield town centre every week leafleting and collecting signatures since councillors referred the whole process to Jeremy Hunt and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

“In spite of the decision by Kirklees and Calderdale councillors, the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group has approved the final business case to downgrade HRI and shut our A&E, regardless.

“This has created a lot of public anger but also public confusion about what is actually happening.

“We hope the meeting can address all these questions and of course decide what we now need to do to take our campaign forward.

“To continue to maintain the fantastic support people have given this campaign, it’s very important everyone is kept informed about the future of their hospital.

“The public meeting is open to everyone and we hope it will help address all the important questions which are being raised.”

The business case supporting the plans states HRI would require £473m of investment to stay open – a figure made up of £94m for repairs over the next decade and a further £379m after that for rebuilding costs for the hospital, which was built in the 1960s.

It says the alternative proposal by the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust to build new facilities on the adjacent Acre Mill outpatients centre site while sending all A&E patients to an expanded department at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax five miles away would instead cost a total of £298m, a £175m saving that would allow the trust to “achieve and maintain a financial surplus” by 2024/25.

But as the trust has been advised there is no publicly financed capital funding available from the Government, new buildings will have to be financed through a private finance
initiative (PFI) deal, in which private firms fund upfront construction costs and the money is paid back over several decades.

A similar PFI deal used to build Calderdale Royal Hospital in the 1990s has been partly blamed for the trust’s current financial problems. The hospital opened in 2001 and last year Health

Minister Ben Gummer admitted that the PFI deal that was signed to build it will end up costing around £100m more than if it had been paid for through public debt. The trust has indicated it is considering paying a £40m break clause to end the deal 30 years early in 2031.

No one from the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust wished to issue a comment on the situation.