Kirklees plan a ‘distraction’ in hospitals row

Calderdale Royal Hospital
Calderdale Royal Hospital

There are concerns that a cross-party plan for a brand new state-of-the-art hospital in Kirklees could jeopardise an existing bid for £197m to provide 24/7 consultant-led A&E services at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital.

The comments came as councillors, officers and NHS chiefs from Kirklees and Calderdale met to discuss the status of separate proposals currently before Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Last month the leaders of all five parties on Kirklees Council came together to unveil a proposal for a new hospital between Huddersfield and Dewsbury. But with no site in mind and little flesh on the bones the plan was branded too vague.

Meanwhile the counter proposal by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is already costed, and is £53m cheaper than the Kirklees model. The bid for £197m has been sent to Mr Hancock. Calderdale Council’s plan, presented independently of Kirklees’ proposal, broadly backs the NHS model.

Health chiefs hope for a speedy sign-off from Mr Hancock on the money, allowing them to make a final decision on services “within this calendar year.”

And during the meeting at Halifax Town Hall they intimated that a final decision on the future of the hospital will be made locally.

Richard Parry, director for commissioning, public health and adult social care at Kirklees Council, said the authority had authored “a very hardline proposal” that was about much more than just a hospital site.

He added that the authority was looking to work with NHS organisations to make capital available to fund the plan “for ten years and beyond.”

But there were concerns that the Kirklees plan risked jeopardising the NHS proposal and that it would create confusion.

Iain Baines, Calderdale’s director of adult services and wellbeing, said he was worried that the Kirklees proposal “is quite light on detail and can be a bit of a distraction.”

Warren Brown, for NHS Improvement, warned that there was only so much money in the pot.

“It’s not a competition in a conventional sense though in reality there is a limited amount of capital.

“Do we go for the £197m that we want or do we sit back and think about it a bit longer?” he said.

And he added: “As far as I can see there is only one proposal on the table for capital.

“If anyone wants to suggest otherwise I think it’s really important to say so now.

“The Secretary of State will not take kindly to being confused about these things.”

Mr Parry said it was not a case of playing one bid off against the other.

“The council is clear that the proposal asks for circa £250m worth of capital. That and more money is needed to run the system.

“If the Secretary of State was to write back and say there was £197m and we had to make a choice between the submissions from the CHFT and Kirklees Council then we would cross that bridge when we get to it.

“I think it’s unlikely that we will be faced with such a stark choice.”

Mr Brown said a green light on funding for the trust’s plans would allow it to “work up” its plans but that further delays were unnecessary.

“We do have to deal with the here and now. Should we get the go-ahead for the capital, let’s work up the plans. Let’s kick them around, make them right and that will help feed into the business case as it develops from the intention position.

“The risk is, if we wait for all the answers we will never get there.”

Outside the town hall campaigners could be heard be heard chanting “Hands off HRI.”