Don’t let centuries of work be undone

editorial image

I write in support of the campaign to retain the A&E facilities at Calderdale Royal Hospital. It would be a most retrograde step to remove this vital service from Halifax, and would put lives at risk needlessly.

Even if one life is lost as a result of such a negative move, that life is irreplaceable.
Back in 1801, the built-up area of Halifax had a population of just under 9,000. Health risks were growing with the early industrial revolution, but even normal standards of living were abysmal compared with today. The unincorporated town was backward in carrying out needed improvements, and there was much sickness, poverty, and distress.

Such conditions were exacerbated by a poor water supply and non-existent sewage system. Infections could spread fast, and accidents at work were not uncommon. And yet, at the beginning of the 19th century, there was no “A&E” of any kind.

More precisely, there was no infirmary, dispensary, or hospital, for the benefit of poorer working people in Halifax. Any medical treatment available locally was far too expensive for the vast majority; and travelling to a town such as Leeds, where cheap treatment was available, was not viable. In an attempt see what could be done to alleviate such problems, a meeting was held in October 1807, at the Talbot Inn, Woolshops. Called and chaired by Halifax’s Vicar, Rev. H. W. Coulthurst, he invited all potential subscribers and well-wishers.

It was there that The Halifax Dispensary for the Relief of the Sick Poor was formed, funded by the wealthier residents as subscribers. Subscriptions were set at various rates; and from the sum raised, a small building was acquired. This was opened on February 8, 1808, and was simply a dispensary plus treatment centre.

The regulations adopted in 1807 provided for the election of a president, two vice-presidents, a treasurer, two physicians, two surgeons, and an apothecary. A physician had to attend at the Dispensary, every Monday, Wednesday, Thurs­day, and Saturday to examine and prescribe for the outpatients, and he had to visit the home patients at their respective places of abode, when necessary. The building belonged to the Waterhouse Charity, and stood approximately where Dispensary Walk is today. 
People living within one mile of the Union Cross were treated free at the Dispensary, but they had to be referred there in person by one of the subscribers. In effect, thus began the first “A&E” in Halifax.
There was always much fundraising needed to acquire enough money to keep the place running, and at one period the subscription fees had to be raised. As the years went by, a move was made to a fresh building, formerly the Lecturer’s House, at the corner of Smithy Stake and Causeway; this was in the mid-1820s, and for the first time a few beds were made available for severe accident cases and those requiring operations, performed by a surgeon who worked for free.

In 1836 plans were made for the first Halifax Infirmary building at Blackwall; this was opened for the reception of in-patients in April 1838, the event being marked by a procession through the streets. In 1864 and again in 1874, that building was enlarged, the total number of beds in the latter year being raised to 70. From this building, the Infirmary was moved to Free School Lane in 1894, where purpose-built facilities were opened by Royal visitors. 
I think most will know something of our later hospital history.
Please do not allow anyone to undo the good work begun in Halifax two centuries ago, by removing our A&E facility from Calderdale.

David C Glover



I’m appalled by what is proposed

I read the comments of Calder Valley Conservative MP Craig Whittaker. I am appalled about what is going on with our hospital’s A&E.

First of all we closed down The Royal Infirmary and build the Calderdale Royal Hospital, and are told we may not have an A &E.
 No one takes any notice of how difficult it would be to get to A & E in Huddersfield. Not everyone has transport and this could endanger people who need vital treatment. I think both hospitals need an A & E. As for cutting the number of beds in Halifax. It is appalling to even think of this, I oppose the scheme.

Carol Dean


I think my wife would have died

It was about 10, maybe 15, years ago that Nora my wife nearly died.

It was quite late on a Saturday evening, about 11pm when we both discovered she was allergic to nuts. One moment she was OK the next her throat was closing fast and she was gasping to breath.
 To say I had two options would be silly. I could of course have dialled 999 and waited for the ambulance. On a normal night this might have taken between 15 minutes and 45 minutes to arrive. On a Saturday night? I bundled her into the car and drove her to hospital myself trying to observe the speed limit through Sowerby Bridge.

To have been stopped by the police for speeding would have wasted time and probably cost me my driving licence, because by 11pm that night I was most certainly not a legal driver. But I had no option, and anyway speeding through a half mile 30 mph limit would only shave seconds off the entire trip. It took me about 15 minutes, maybe 12, to reach the A&E department of Calderdale Hospital. We left at 4am. 
 She is still alive today, but armed with an EpiPen, although strangely she is no longer allergic to nuts.
When we first moved to Sowerby Bridge in 1985 Calderdale had two hospitals both with an A&E department. Shortly after our arrival one of the A&Es closed down. Then the authorities decided to close down the hospital with A&E and greatly improve, at the cost of millions of pounds, the other.

Now there is a distinct possibility that the one and only hospital in Halifax will close too; and if it doesn’t close then it is almost a certainty Huddersfield Hospital will.

If the hospital in Halifax closes it will be a 30 minute drive from my house to the Huddersfield Hospital. 
I suspect my wife would have died that night in my car had the only prospect been driving to Huddersfield.
Anybody living on the southern or eastern end of Huddersfield will have a 45 minute drive (speeding) to get to the hospital in Halifax. 
It will be close to criminal if either hospital closes.

Joe Stead


Divide and rule attack on NHS

The current situation at Calderdale Royal Hospital should come as no surprise when it is becoming clear the powers that be want to dismantle the NHS, by dividing and ruling.

Over a period getting on for 70 years, I have found my medical care under the NHS and before to be first class, including very recently at the fine hospital in Halifax, where I was cared for by caring and good humoured staff.

I can understand the logic of getting people home as soon as possible after a medical procedure, but if the reduction in the number of beds is to take place as suggested, then I think it may be that the space freed up may be used as a human rescources department, or a manager training centre, or flats and housing!

It may be good to remind readers it was a former Archbishop of Canterbury who started the idea of a health service for ordinary people because the situation in those days was considered a disgrace. Locally, it was the church of St John the Baptist that set up what has evolved into the hospital we now have. Someone once said “we are all in it together.” If only this had been genuine, many of the country’s current problems could have been solved by now. There never has been a time when the Halifax Courier should be more supported than this, so we can better see what is going on locally!

Graham Rigby



Help us to challenge this group

The Courier has just run an article by the commissioning group in which the doctors speak of public consultation.

In the interests of expanding the debate to the public of Calderdale rather than a few pressure groups, would the Courier take an active role as an honest broker?

The doctors were prepared to speak, through the Courier, to the people with carefully worded statements; would they use the same conduit to answer questions and enable the debate to proceed on a more informed basis?

Much of the concerns have been about the increase in ambulance journey times, yet a rumour is circulating that all trauma cases already go to HRI,if this is so when did the practice start? This is a really important point because if it is the case, are mortality and recovery rates being monitored?

The implementation date is vital because if Calderdale A&E is closed what time frame will be used to monitor these statistics? The quality and meaning of any debate is enhanced by knowledge. It is impossible for the public to ask or indeed challenge the commissioning group directly,so I ask will you, on behalf of the people of Calderdale, take up the torch?

Mick Oxley