Campaigners have been in touch with several top lawyers to ‘discredit’ and stop a plan which could close Huddersfield’s A&E.

But lawyers cost money – and organisers of #HandsOffHRI are appealing for funds to pay them.

Campaign chair Karl Deitch and secretary Natalie Ratcliffe say they are confident the Right Care Right Time Right Place plan can be picked apart and stopped.

Natalie Ratcliffe, of Unison and #HandsOffHRI

But finding a lawyer to mount a legal challenge against Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale CCGs (clinical commissioning groups) – the local NHS organisations behind the proposal – could cost upwards of £50,000.

A public consultation on Right Care Right Time Right Place (RCRTRP) is set to start on March 15.

The #HandsOffHRI began as Facebook group Let’s Save Huddersfield A&E, which now has almost 47,000 followers.

Ms Ratcliffe said: “If every one of those followers gives us £1 then we’re on our way.

“With a good lawyer we can pull this apart and stop it in its tracks.

“Once the consultation document comes out we need someone to go through it – someone who does it for a living and is qualified to do it.”

Ms Ratcliffe added, hopefully : “We want a barrister and if anyone is willing to do it pro bono, that would be great.”

Watch campaigners fight for Huddersfield A&E at the #HandsOffHRI rally — were you there?

Video thumbnail, Hands Off HRI demo by Roger Kinder
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Mr Deitch, who founded the campaign, said: “Having a lawyer on board is imperative.

“We’ve been told we need to discredit the CCGs.

“If a lawyer comes on board I don’t think it will be difficult.”

Under RCRTRP, the current Huddersfield Royal Infirmary will be demolished and replaced by a smaller hospital with an ‘urgent care centre’ but, crucially, without full emergency care services.

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Emergency care services will be transferred to Calderdale Royal Hospital, Halifax, which will be expanded to focus on serious and life-threatening cases.

The successful Save Lewisham Hospital campaign received legal support from London firm Leigh Day, which specialises in medical negligence and human rights.

The firm helped launched a legal challenge against Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s decision to downgrade University Hospital Lewisham and close its A&E.

Lewisham Hospital
Lewisham Hospital

The High Court ruled Mr Hunt had acted unlawfully in trying to use the hospital to reduce the debts of another NHS trust.

Following the collapse of South London Healthcare NHS Trust in 2012, a government report suggested that the trusts’s three hospitals should be absorbed by neighbouring trusts.

The trust had fallen into £65m debt, largely due to a PFI.

The #HandsOffHRI campaigners believe that a PFI used to build Calderdale Royal Hospital – and which costs the hospital trust £22m a year in repayments and associated costs – is the real driver behind RCRTRP.