It was half a house at the first of two major public meetings on the biggest shake-up of local NHS health services in 60 years.
But those who half-filled the Shibden Room at North Bridge Leisure Centre, Halifax, didn’t give health bosses behind the hospital shake-up plan an easy time.
Huddersfield and Calderdale NHS chiefs behind the Right Care Right Time Right Place plan were accused of peddling ‘propaganda’ and putting lives at risk.
Under the plan, Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) will be demolished and replaced with a new hospital which will have an urgent care centre – but no emergency care unit.
Emergency care will be centralised at Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH), Halifax.
After praising his former colleagues present at the meeting, including some of the medical chiefs behind the plan, consultant paediatrician Adnan Muhamed accused them of spin.
Mr Muhamed said: “This proposal is seriously compromising to the health and welfare of the people of Huddersfield and the people of Calderdale. There will be serious consequences to people in both areas.
“This is spin; it’s propaganda.
“I know the reality is different. The reality is people will bring their children to the nearest place.
“I know the people of Huddersfield deserve a proper, well staffed (hospital) to serve the people.
“Almost half a million people deserve something better than this.”
Mr Muhamed’s speech was met with a long round of applause.
Also expressing his opposition to the plan was retired Huddersfield and Calderdale hospitals eye surgeon and consultant Colin Hutchinson.
Mr Hutchinson said the plan would result in ambulances queuing outside CRH and patients being diverted to other hospitals facing similar pressures.
He said: “Ambulances will be backing up and being diverted to other hospitals which are having the same reductions in beds and capacity.”
Another member of the audience mockingly asked how much of the government’s £22bn NHS ‘efficiency savings’ would be made as a result of the plan.
Supporting Right Care Right Time Right Place, HRI and CRH clinical director Dr David Birkenhead admitted that the proposal was a compromise.
Dr Birkenhead said: “It is a compromised position but the model we have at the moment is a very compromised position.”
Calderdale CCG Chief Officer Dr Matt Walsh added that the plan, which also aims to move more services from hospitals and into the community, would relieve pressure on emergency care at CRH.
A second principal presentation by local NHS chiefs – followed by another Q&A session – takes place at John Smith’s Stadium, on Monday (6pm).
Thousands are expected to flock to the stadium, although many will be left outside as the venue only has space for 520 people.
Further meetings may be arranged if there are large numbers of people who cannot get inside the venue.