A long serving NHS boss has urged Huddersfield GPs to “be brave” and drop their plans to axe HRI’s A&E.

Mike Ramsden, chairman of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospital Trust, has hit out at the proposal to shift emergency care to Halifax.

And he has called on the doctors with reservations about the plan to “stand up and be counted” and consider if they are really representing the best interests of their patients.

As reported, GPs and officials on Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group have opted to recommend closing the infirmary’s A&E and demolishing the Lindley based hospital.

Emergency care would be delivered from Calderdale Royal and a new Huddersfield hospital featuring a minor injury unit, dubbed an urgent care centre, created on the Acre Mills site.

It is thought the decision largely hinges on the expensive long term PFI deal on Calderdale Royal which means it cannot be sold or mothballed for another 42 years.

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Huddersfield hospital bosses inherited the £773m debt when they merged with Calderdale in 2001.

Mr Ramsden, 56, who grew up in Holmfirth before embarking on a 30-year-long career in the NHS and private health, ultimately ending as the chief executive of Leeds Health Authority, said he had to speak out about the predicament.

“I do have some sympathy with Huddersfield CCG,” he said. “They’re stuck with some difficult issues, not of their making.

“The basic job of the CCG is to understand the health needs of the population it serves and where appropriate work with other partners.

“But it’s inconceivable that it could be argued that this proposal better meets the needs of Huddersfield people.

Hands off our A&E: Sign the government petition to save Huddersfield Royal Infimary A&E here

“As far as Calderdale CCG are concerned, they probably think they’ve hit the jackpot.

“They must have some very persuasive GPs as they’ve convinced their Huddersfield counterparts a way forward that isn’t in the interest of Huddersfield people.

“They’ve neutralised the hospital’s problems that could have been a threat to their future.

“They’ve got someone else to pay for it and somebody else to take the flak. It’s a pretty good result for them.

“The reality is the CCG in Huddersfield exists to represent the health issues of the local population.

“If the proposals are now being delivered because of the financial pressure on a hospital in Halifax, then it’s my belief that it’s not a matter for Huddersfield CCG.

“There will be other views that they have to work together.

“It’s a bit complicated as the hospital trust provides services for both towns.

“But it can’t be seen to be fair that a PFI deal in Halifax is taken on by people in Huddersfield.”

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Mr Ramsden said the impact of longer journey times to Halifax had not been properly addressed.

And he said the argument that there weren’t enough doctors and nurses to staff two A&Es also didn’t stand up to scrutiny.

“The shortage of doctors is temporary,” he said. “It will change over time.

“Are they’re making proposals that will survive for 20 years?

“They are taking a very short term view in my opinion.

“In my 30 years in health care there have been staff shortages in one area or another. If it’s a pressure at this time it might not be in a few years.

“This just feels like the wrong proposal.

“To have one A&E might be the right solution but the location has been proposed entirely because of the legacy financial problems of Calderdale.

“Anyone looking at a map would say Halifax simply isn’t the right location.”

Mr Ramsden said the GPs on Huddersfield CCG needed to come to their senses.

He said there was now four opportunities to save HRI.

“The GPs need to stand back and reflect and think, ‘hang on a minute – what are we doing? How is this in the best interests of our patients.’

“I have no doubt some members of the CCG will have their reservations about this. “I would urge them to stand up and be counted.

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, Accident & Emergency Dept. Acre Street, Lindley, Huddersfield.

“Be brave. As this consultation unfolds they have to do the right thing.

“They know the location in Halifax is not the right thing.

“The second thing is MPs and local politicians hopefully will have real influence they should use at a national level.

“It’s not just about shouting loudly, hopefully they will have sufficient contacts.

“Thirdly, there is the option of legal action, but there’s no guarantee that would be successful.

“It worked for Lewisham Hospital but there’s plenty of places where it did not.

“Fourthly, we can hope that the CCG is listening. If they have made their minds up it will be difficult to persuade them but if it’s a genuine consultation I would hope they would listen to reason.

“It’s clear something’s happened to bring this u-turn but what might seem logical to management consultants is not in the best interests of Huddersfield’s patients.”

Dr Steve Ollerton
Dr Steve Ollerton

Chair of NHS Greater Huddersfield CCG, Dr Steve Ollerton, responded: “People are very passionate about their local health services. We share that passion and that is why we are very eager to get out and talk to the public about our proposals.

“We know there is significant interest in the proposed changes and we are keen to listen to views.

“There are also some misconceptions out there and we will look forward to explaining our reasoning and processes to the public as part of the consultation process.

“No final decisions have been made about the way in which our hospitals should work.”

The CCGs are currently finalising plans for public consultation and will agree a launch date, which is expected to be in February.

Information events and roadshows will be hosted at locations across Huddersfield and Calderdale.