Health chiefs have been blasted for giving councillors just eight hours to examine a public consultation document on a plan which could close Huddersfield’s A&E.
The consultation plan would then be ‘signed off’ by Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), the NHS organisations behind the hospital shake-up proposal.
Members of the Kirklees and Calderdale joint health scrutiny committee (JHSC) have reacted with anger at the short notice they were given and have referred the matter to council scrutiny officers.
In pictures: #HandsOffHRI projected onto Huddersfield landmarks
Panel member Clr Adam Wilkinson warned that the shake-up plan – called Right Care Right Time Right Place – could be referred to the Health Secretary if due process was not followed.
He said: “We can refer this to Jeremy Hunt if we are not happy with the consultation and they are running the risk of doing that.”
Members hope the consultation will be put on ice until the panel has properly scrutinised the document, which was emailed to councillors at 8.54am on Thursday.
Clr Wilkinson added: “It shows a disregard for the proper scrutiny process. If they want the public to have confidence in the process they should pay proper regard to it.
“We made it quite clear in the last meeting that we were to have the document in good time of the consultation.”
Last week the panel, which is responsible for examining local health services, received a draft of the public consultation document just 30 minutes before they were due to discuss it in the council chamber.
The Labour member for Sowerby Bridge said: “Many of us work in the day and we won’t have time to go through it.
“Some of the councillors may not have even seen the email.”
#HandsoffHRI campaigner Nicola Jowett told local health blog Upper Calder Valley Plain Speaker: “This is pushing things behind closed doors where those most affected cannot see. It’s just plain wrong.”
The public consultation, which is expected to last 12 weeks, has been pencilled to start on February 8.
A CCGs spokesperson said: "NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG and NHS Calderdale CCG are working closely with the JHSC to finalise consultation materials and agree the consultation launch date, which we anticipate will be early February.
"We fully recognise the important role the JHSC plays in any consultation process and are committed to working closely with the committee in the coming weeks and months.”