Campaigners demand full hospital services retained

Calderdale Royal Hospital
Calderdale Royal Hospital

Campaigners who forced health bosses to abandon plans to knock down a town’s hospital will demand that full services are retained for patients at a protest tomorrow.

Plans to bulldoze Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and centralise accident and emergency services in Halifax were axed by NHS bosses in August after a storm of protest.

READ: Kirklees plan a ‘distraction’ in hospitals row

Proposals which would have seen HRI replaced with a smaller site led to safety fears over longer journey times to hospital and a Judicial Review being granted after campaigners launched a legal claim.

Revised plans were then published which scrapped the HRI demolition and said 24-7 emergency care would be retained in both towns.

Health Minister urged to visit hospitals amid A&E fears

But action group Hands off HRI has rejected the new plan, saying it is “half-baked” and still means the loss of services in Huddersfield.

Mike Forster, who chairs the action group, said: “They have been forced to concede that the are going to keep our hospital and forced to keep our A&E and that is because of the campaign and in particular, the legal challenge.

“However they still have plans which will see most, if not all, emergencies transferred to Halifax.”

READ: Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock to review hospitals shake up plan

A Hands off HRI campaign spokesperson added: “Huddersfield is facing a health emergency if it is robbed of critical health care at HRI.” Speakers at a rally in Huddersfield town centre will include Thelma Walker, the Labour MP for Colne Valley, along with NHS campaigners from around the country.

The original proposals involved an expansion of Calderdale Royal Hospital, more planned procedures being carried out at a new facility in Huddersfield and more services being offered outside of hospital. A new Huddersfield hospital was originally planned to have 120 beds, but that was reduced to 64.

The plan was referred to the former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt by Calderdale and Huddersfield councillors and in May, Mr Hunt ordered a rethink after a review by an independent panel.

There was a “lack of consistency” with the proposals, and “scepticism about whether proposals of this scale and complexity are actually deliverable”, Mr Hunt said in a letter to the Calderdale and Huddersfield joint health scrutiny committee.

While the revised plan means both hospitals will have an A&E, all the most serious emergency will be taken to Calderdale Royal Hospital.

A summary of the new plan said: “The A&E at HRI will receive self presenting emergency patients. All patients requiring acute inpatient admission will be transferred by ambulance from HRI to CRH – 24-7 consultant anaesthetic cover will be provided at HRI to enable the safe delivery of accident and emergency services.”

Public funding would be sought to carry out the new plan instead of using the costly Private Finance Initiative (PFI), under which new hospital services are built by private companies.
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, must make £20.8m of savings this year in order to end 2018-19 with a £43.1m deficit.