COUNCILLORS are urging Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to keep a maternity unit in Huddersfield.
They have asked the minister not to allow a controversial decision by health bosses to shift services from the Royal Infirmary to the Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.
And they have warned that if the move did go ahead it would lead to a reduction in care standards.
The strong message comes in a letter sent from a joint scrutiny committee of Kirklees and Calderdale councillors.
The committee has re-affirmed its decision to refer elements of the changes to some hospital maternity services to the minister.
The moves by the boards of Calderdale, Huddersfield Central, and South Huddersfield primary care trusts will see all in-patient obstetrics and services for babies needing special care being provided at the Calderdale Royal.
The letter to Ms Hewitt says: "As you will be aware, in the case of formal consultations on proposals to significantly change local health services overview and scrutiny committees have a power of referral to the minister.
"The joint committee has formally agreed that it is satisfied with the content and timing of the consultation and satisfied that the consultation process carried out by the trust was adequate with regard to Sections 11 and 7 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001.
"The joint committee also made clear that it supported the majority of the proposals and felt them to be in the best interests of the local population.
"However, the committee felt that one aspect of the proposals - for maternity services - was not in the best interests of the local population and agreed to refer this element to the minister.
"The evidence to support this view is set out in committee's final report, but the principle concerns are that the trust should maintain obstetric cover at both hospitals.
"There are compelling clinical and policy drivers for change and that `no change' is not an option.
"Resources need to be shifted away from hospital provision and towards community midwifery provision if the significant differences in health inequalities, particularly for more disadvantaged groups, are to be addressed.
"The massive variations in rates of infant mortality and low birth-weight babies, for example, will not be tackled purely by investing in hospital provision.
"The committee are supportive of midwife-led care and the principle of midwife-led maternity units.
"They are sceptical, however, about the sustainability of the one being proposed for Huddersfield and feel that more needs to be done across the local health system to better support the normality of childbirth.
"The committee do not believe that the model for maternity services proposed is in the best interests of the local population.
"The committee, in their formal response to the consultation, recommended that the trust develop and discuss with the committee alternative models which would meet the required clinical criteria, but also maintain obstetric cover on both hospital sites.
"The committee have since received a formal response from the PCTs describing how they intend to meet the recommendations contained in the committees' report.
"However, the committee still feel that, with regard to the proposals in respect of maternity services, the response does not address the fundamental concerns outlined above.
"In particular, members did not consider that the relatively short transition period proposed would be sufficient to address the current lack of local confidence in the proposed stand alone midwife-led unit.
"The committee therefore believes there is no option other than to refer this element of the proposals and to request that the PCTs suspend the implementation plan for the service changes in relation to maternity services."