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Secrecy over A&E report raises fears of 'Wonga-style' loan deal

Campaigners worried that HRI shake-up could mean another costly loan

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, Acre Street, Lindley, Huddersfield(Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

Hospital campaigners are worried Huddersfield could be landed with another catastrophic finance deal amid news that “commercially sensitive” details of the controversial HRI shake up will be kept under wraps.

The 18-month-long wait for the final fully costed plan to reconfigure Huddersfield and Calderdale hospitals was expected to end on June 30.

But health chiefs revealed last week that only extracts of it would be available to the public and the council committee due to rule on the plan on July 22.

Owen Williams, chief executive of the hospital trust, said “commercially sensitive” information would be held back.

The news has sparked fear of another so-called private finance initiative (PFI) deal to finance the huge restructuring, that could see Huddersfield lose its full A&E service.

PFI has been blamed for much of the current upheaval.

Owen Williams

Hospital bosses have said they are unable to get out of the current £774m contract for Calderdale Royal, which runs until 2058, causing them to switch a plan to focus emergency care in Huddersfield to one hosting it in Halifax.

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman has vowed to try and get answers on why crucial details about what it will cost to complete the unpopular reconfiguration are being withheld.

He says he hopes to meet with Greater Huddersfield CCG chiefs this week and will also be attempting to speak to Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

“Why can’t we have transparency?” said Mr Sheerman.

“If there is commercial sensitivity then spell it out to us.

“I’m totally dismayed with the CCG showing utter contempt for the people of Huddersfield.

“I’m appealing to them to stop this secrecy.

“We should have an open and honest dialogue, it would make such a difference.”

Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker said: “The CCG have missed the deadline to publish their business case for changes to health services in Huddersfield.

Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker(Image: Huddersfield Examiner)

They’ve had 18 months, and they’ve failed.

“It’s time for them to admit the plans are flawed, and that Huddersfield needs its own A&E.

“Committed campaigners from Hands Off HRI and Let’s Save HRI are working tirelessly to fight and fundraise for the legal challenge.

“It’s disgraceful that the CCG cannot even explain their plans to the people of Huddersfield.”

Health campaigner Jenny Shepherd of ‘Calderdale and Kirklees 999 call for the NHS’ said the joint health scrutiny committee (JHSC) of Kirklees and Calderdale councillors needed to be stronger.

She said it had always been clear that the full business case was expected to show detailed funding proposals.

She said: “Throughout the consultation when people asked about the capital costs of the hospitals reconfiguration and where the money was coming from, we were told repeatedly that this would be sorted in the full business case.

“The JHSC can’t pretend that they didn’t know this was going to be the case.

“They should insist that hospital trust publishes the full business case in public, with financial information redacted if the trust can show that it is indeed commercially sensitive.

Jenny Shepherd

“Councillors should get to see the whole thing, with no redactions.”

She added: “For the hospital trust to say the information about the capital costs is “commercially sensitive” can only mean that they are going to try and raise the money on the market either by commercial loan or by PFI2.”

Former Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney also claimed the secrecy meant a “Wonga” loan was planned.

Writing on Twitter, he said: “Really clear now the CCG can’t make their business case stack up and most likely will ask for another Wonga PFI deal – madness!”

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