Transport data questioned over £196.5m hospital plans in Calderdale and Huddersfield

Data underpinning the travel element of a major hospital reconfiguration was queried because it had been harvested during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 5:00 pm

In all £196.5 million of public funding has been made available to reconfigure hospital services in Huddersfield and Calderdale.

Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee members were asking questions about the reconfiguration’s impact on travel, including whether there would be adequate parking spaces on both Kirklees Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital – in Halifax – sites.

Campaigners who spoke in the public question time part of the meeting and councillors questioned whether the data gained during the survey last November gave an accurate picture as it took place during the pandemic and they queried whether this was adequate to underpin Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s plans.

Calderdale Royal Hospital

Getting it wrong risked further disadvantaging the most vulnerable people who used the services, they said.

A letter from Mike Foster of Hands Off Huddersfield Royal Infirmary said: “How can a survey on transport undertaken in November 2020 hold water? The country was in the middle of a pandemic.

“It is plainly wrong to plan services and responses based on data that is collected in extraordinary circumstances.”

Stuart Sugarman, head of estates at the trust, said it had taken place during the pandemic but 1,500 responses had been received from staff, 25 per cent of the workforce, and the questionnaire had reminded them to think how they travelled before COVID.

Two hundred and forty patients and visitors had also been questioned, he said.

But Coun Andrew Cooper (Kirklees, Green, Newsome), querying how much attention had been paid to patients and visitors, said patients and visitors would not think about what they might do before the pandemic because it was not a regular journey for them.

“It’s not a common occurrence they can talk about like going to the shops,” he said.

Coun Megan Swift (Calderdale, Lab, Town) wanted reassurance the new multi-storey car park at Calderdale Royal would not impact on the allotments which were next to the hospital and the trust’s Director of Transformation and Partnerships, Anna Basford, said she could give an absolute assurance they would not be affected.

Coun Alison Munro (Kirklees, Lib Dem, Almondbury), questioning whether parking space would be sufficient at the sites, said among environmental gains the trust predicts would ensue from reconfiguration were cycling and walking routes to the hospital.

But, she said: “People who are ill are not going to be able to travel to hospital on a bicycle or walk, and might be too ill for public transport.

“I would like quantified data on reducing our carbon footprint – I don’t see how this plan can possibly reduce this carbon footprint,” she said.

Mr Sugarman said active travel and public transport were important elements and park and ride projects would address some issues.

Coun Liz Smaje (Kirklees, Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw) said: “Why is it so sketchy for patient and visitor results and why does it contradict previous travel surveys?”

The trust’s Assistant Director of Finance Stuart Baron said visitors would be taken into account at the Halifax site, with 800 spaces currently and 1,300 post-reconfiguration.