Campaigners fighting to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary’s A&E have a new not-so-secret weapon.
Action group Hands Off HRI have a new committee member with a wealth of experience in NHS and hospital management.
Huddersfield-born Mike Ramsden, chairman of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust, has been an outspoken critic of plans to close HRI and centralise emergency care at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.
But now, it has emerged, Mr Ramsden has joined the action group’s committee and is about to retire from his role in East Yorkshire, freeing up his time to help Huddersfield campaigners.
Karl Deitch, president of Hands Off HRI, said: “Mike is our secret weapon but it doesn’t have to be a secret now.
“He is a massive string to our bow because when he speaks he does so from a position of authority.
“He has a lot of friends in all the right places and he understands the finances of the NHS. And the best thing is he retires next month and, like us, he is passionate about Huddersfield and its people.”
Karl and Mike were both invited to a face-to-face meeting with senior health chiefs last Friday to discuss hospital shake-up plans dubbed Right Care Right Time Right Place.
The meeting was a regular briefing session for Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney but Mr McCartney turned over the meeting with the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to A&E campaigners.
Karl, Mike and Mr McCartney met with chairman Dr Steve Ollerton, chief officer Carol McKenna, Penny Woodhead, head of quality and safety, and GP representative Dr David Hughes.
Karl said the meeting went well and health chiefs insisted their plans to close HRI and replace it with a planned care centre on the nearby Acre Mills site was far from a “done deal.”
Karl said: “They said there were still a lot of hurdles to cross and that it would be silly of them to say it was a done deal. For them it’s still a work in progress and that is good news for us. It’s all still to play for.”
From the meeting it was clear that the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal used to build the new Calderdale hospital was the big stumbling block and Karl added: “It’s an enormous problem.
“From the £64 million borrowed they have to pay back £720 million but we have to get round it somehow. What’s clear is that without the PFI we could have a new hospital at Ainley Top.”
Karl described the meeting as “positive” and that there would be another in a couple of months.