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10.08.18

Health bosses ditch plans to close down Yorskhire A&E, but campaigners fight back

Proposals to close A&E services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) have been scrapped by NHS bosses.

Original plans looked to replace HRI with a smaller 64-bed unit and realign A&E services to Halifax. But following former health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s call on management in May to reconsider the proposals, new plans indicate that it will remain open, whilst patients with “serious life-threatening conditions” will be taken to Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH) in Halifax. Consequently, HRI will receive just self-presenting patients, the hospital’s progress report shows. Patients requiring acute inpatient admission who present at HRI will be transferred by ambulance from HRI to CRH.

In its final progress report for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, health bosses wrote: “We want to offer as many services as locally as possible and ensure a strong future for both HRI and Calderdale Royal Infirmary. For the services that we cannot maintain on two sites we want to maintain access to them within Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield – hence we propose a consultant led A&E on both sites and the creation of single expert teams for a number of services.

“These proposals mean that the majority of people who need to go to hospital still get their care from their local hospital. A far greater number of people will receive care without having to go to hospital at all.”

The foundation trust noted that there will continue to be a clinical decision unit at both hospitals, and 24/7 anaesthetic cover will be provided at HRI to enable the safe delivery of A&E services.

A single expert team model at CRH will be put in place for critical, emergency surgical, and paediatric surgical services. Bed capacity across both hospitals will remain unchanged.

Chair Philip Lewer said: “The trust has worked with NHS England, NHS Improvement, and our two local CCGs to develop the response to the secretary of state and the recommendations set out by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel and that response has been sent today.”

Campaigners fight back: ‘Plans are half-baked reworking of original proposal’

Local campaigners, however, were not convinced by the new plan. Pressure group Hands Off HRI, which in March won the right to a judicial review against the intent to demolish the Huddersfield hospital, said the redeveloped proposals “are a half-baked reworking of the original business case.”

“They claim to be maintaining two A&Es but in reality, the Huddersfield Centre will be self-referring; all emergencies will be redirected to Halifax and all acute and emergency care will be dealt with at Halifax,” the group said in a statement.

“Although they now recognise that PFI money is now no longer appropriate and expect more capital funding, they are in reality proposing an accident centre at Huddersfield with all emergencies redirected to Halifax. This is not enough and our campaign group will oppose them all the way.”

The fresh proposals also do not reference the future of the existing hospital at HRI, the campaigners said, but instead imply that the building will be demolished and fall back on the Acre Mill site as a planned care centre – a move which campaigners said is “totally unacceptable.”

“The CCG and trusts have ignored our independent surveyors report which clearly states the HRI has a long future for at least another 60 years,” the statement continued. “In reality the CCG and trusts have laboured for three months and produced a warmed through version of their failed business case. This will strengthen our legal case if it becomes necessary.”

Campaigners also criticised NHS England and NHS Improvement for simply endorsing the new plan “without considering any other ideas” or without attending meetings of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, the body which originally referred the issue to the health secretary.

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