Health chiefs have “failed to communicate” their hospital and health care shake-up plans effectively, a patients’ rights group has said.
Rory Deighton, director of Healthwatch Kirklees, said he was “disappointed” with how those behind plans to radically overhaul Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals, had engaged with the public.
Mr Deighton said the plans were not properly understood by residents.
And he said it was sad that “lessons had not been learned” from last year’s hospital restructure in Dewsbury, Wakefield and Pontefract.
As reported, wide-ranging plans dubbed ‘Right Care, Right Time, Right Place’ are proposing to introduce specialised emergency and ‘planned care’ hospitals.
Hospital chiefs want to cut the number of people treated on wards amid a demand to save £50m per year.
The plans could see the closure of A&E at either Huddersfield Royal Infirmary or Calderdale Royal Hospital, while another option is to downgrade both and rely on a bigger centre elsewhere.
The plans from Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust come alongside a mission to massively increase care in the community with more health centres, community nurses and so called “tele-medicine”, the use of video conferencing over the internet.
The proposals have been published online and a number of public drop-in sessions have been held by Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), who will make the final decision.
A full public consultation is due later this year.
Mr Deighton said: “Unfortunately we seem to have started and stopped with A&E when actually this is about the biggest transformation of hospital services we’re ever likely to see in our lifetimes.
“For whatever reason, the hospitals and the CCGs have failed to get those messages out.
“I think that’s disappointing that we’re having the same sorts of debates that we had with the Mid Yorkshire Trust rather than properly trying to understand what’s being proposed.
“It’s a failure to communicate, I don’t think people understand what happens to emergency services now.
“The Trust has failed to communicate what happens when you ring 999, the numbers of people who are helped by a paramedic at the side of the road or the numbers that end up in Leeds already.
“We’ve ended up focusing on this one issue as it’s what people associate with hospitals when actually as a percentage of what’s being proposed it’s actually quite small.
“They’ve got some work to do to explain in more detail exactly what is happening and what’s going to change.”
Mr Deighton said Healthwatch Kirklees was currently neutral on the plans but wanted health chiefs to raise the level of debate and improve its engagement with the public.
He added: “I wouldn’t say the engagement process has been great.
“You can’t just open a village hall from 2pm to 7pm on a Wednesday. You’ll get 20 odd people coming along but I’m not sure that will help you understand what people think.
“You have to go in and sit down with the right organisations.
“It’s harder, but it’s a better way of understanding what those issues are.
“The people that went to one of those sessions probably have a better understanding of what’s proposed, but as a way of communicating a massive change to a community I’m not sure it’s a great way of working.”
Mr Deighton said he welcomed news that local NHS chiefs were set to sit down with community groups to find out their views as the next part of the engagement process.
Dr Steve Ollerton, Chair of Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The aim of the engagement was to listen to the public’s views on how to meet the challenges facing the local NHS at the moment.
“Through the combination of the drop-in sessions, held at 10 locations across Calderdale and Huddersfield, and the engagement work we have been doing with more than 70 community and voluntary groups, we have received more than 1,000 completed questionnaires, which we are in the process of analysing. Additional engagement work has been undertaken by our partners.
“A series of events are planned for July where partners and stakeholders will be able to hear the outcomes of the engagement. This will enable Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning groups to shape their proposals for formal public consultation.”
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