Campaigners pleaded with a council watchdog today to halt a “flawed” shake up of hospital services in Calderdale and Huddersfield.
The restructuring, designed to address a £280m funding gap, could see a super A&E developed to serve both districts at an expanded Calderdale Royal Hospital - but Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would lose its own casualty department.
But objectors who attended a meeting of Calderdale and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee, were told the members had no power to stop a public consultation on plans to centralise emergency care in Halifax.
Both hospitals would have “urgent care centres” treating less serious ailments under proposals by Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).
A coalition of action groups asked the committee to refer the plans to health secretary Jeremy Hunt at a meeting held at Halifax Town Hall.
A protest was held and deputations were made to the meeting by the activists, who raised fears that the changes are financially-driven and that longer ambulance journeys to hospital could compromise patient safety.
Campaigner Chris Owen told councillors: “People will die. That’s why you guys should make the right decision and stop this now.”
Mr Owen said the campaign groups wanted both towns to have an A&E. He added: “This is not about choosing.”
Paul Cooney, of Huddersfield Keep Our NHS Public (KONP), said a consultation document released by the CCGS failed to highlight the full impact on ambulance journey times.
He said: “By only reporting average journey times the consultation document avoids telling people in the remoter parts of Calderdale and Huddersfield what effect that would have on expected increases in patient deaths.”
The proposals could leave the whole of Kirklees with no full A&E department after Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust decided to downgrade Dewsbury’s emergency department to an “urgent care centre”.
Christine Hyde, of Dewsbury KONP, said the move by Mid Yorkshire was affecting patient care.
She said: “Let’s not repeat past mistakes.”
The campaigners claimed the committee could halt the process immediately if it decided the consultation was not fit for purpose.
Calderdale NHS activist Jenny Shepherd said: “The consultation is flawed because it proposes only to consult on a single option for change.”
Calderdale councillor Malcolm James said the committee had taken legal advice.
He said: “This joint committee has no power to stop it.”
But the proposals could be reviewed by an independent panel if the committee referred the plan to the health secretary.
Public meetings will be held by the scrutiny committee and CCGs after the 14-week consultation is formally launched.