DISGRUNTLED health campaigners from across the country are teaming up with a group fighting the closure of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department for a day of action in London.
Members of the Hands Off HRI campaign group are travelling to the capital next Monday, on October 10, to hand over a petition of around 80,000 signatures to officials at both Downing Street and the Department of Health.
Their petition calls for Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups to abandon the closure of the A&E department of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary as part of their joint £300m plans to downsize the hospital and expand Calderdale hospital, five miles away in Halifax.
Under the plans, which local health chiefs will decide whether to proceed with at a meeting on October 20, the most serious A&E emergencies from Halifax and Huddersfield would be taken to an expanded Calderdale Hospital. However, both towns would have urgent care centres.
Meanwhile, Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would be demolished and replaced with a smaller hospital designed to carry out planned NHS procedures.
The plans come with NHS services in Calderdale and Huddersfield facing a £270m funding gap between now and 2020, but those opposing the reorganisation claim it would be damaging to local people’s safety.
The Hands Off group said they were taking the issue to the Government after receiving a disappointing response to their letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt which had called for him to intervene.
West Yorkshire MPs Barry Sheerman, Jason McCartney and Paula Sherriff will also be joining campaigners in London, the group said.
A Hands Off spokesperson said: “The reason we felt it necessary to go to London was the result of a letter we sent to Jeremy Hunt. We were told, in response to a government petition against the proposals, that the issue was a local one.
“However, after speaking to other campaign groups from around the country facing similar fights, it became clear that this was not the case and as a result we invited Jeremy Hunt to visit Huddersfield and see for himself what was happening to the residents of Huddersfield and Calderdale.
“Jeremy Hunt declined the invitation and so we took the decision that if he wouldn’t come to us, we would go to him. The idea behind inviting other campaigns to join us was to show this is most certainly not a local issue and to highlight just how much damage has been done to the NHS over the years.”
The group said other campaign groups in England were contacting them “almost every day” to say they will attend the day of action.
Others said to be taking part include campaigners fighting the temporary closure of Chorley and South Ribble A&E in Lancashire and cuts to hospital services at Horton General in Oxfordshire, Grantham in Lincolnshire and Lewisham and St Helier in London.
Campaigners have been fighting the closure of Huddersfield’s A&E department since the plans were announced in January.
The shake-up of services was criticised last week in a report by Calderdale and Huddersfield joint health scrutiny committee.Councillors questioned whether the plan would solve staffing and cash problems, saying they had “serious concerns” over whether Calderdale Hospital had the capacity to provide services to more than 100,000 people every year.