A radical revamp of hospital wards could be necessary if restructuring plans go ahead in Huddersfield and Calderdale.
But hospital officials have strenuously refuted union claims that more than 300 beds could be privatised in the long term.
The ‘Right Care, Right Time, Right Place’ (RCRTRP) health review, which could lead to the closure of either the Royal Infirmary or Calderdale Royal Hospital’s A&E unit, also includes proposals to shift the majority of beds to the site chosen for “unplanned” emergency care.
The site chosen for lower urgency “planned” care would have just 87 beds.
With hospital bosses earmarking Calderdale Royal Hospital as their preferred option for the planned site, there are fears it could mean a cut of more than 360 beds at the Halifax premises – an 81% decrease. The number at Huddersfield could be increased.
Yesterday managers at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospitals, said there were many options to be determined.
But Unison union leaders say they believe the Trust is planning to open up the spare capacity to private patients.
Changes to the law implemented in the 2012 Health and Social Care Act mean hospital chiefs are now allowed to make up to 49% of their income from non-NHS work – up from a previous cap of about 2%.
Unison’s regional organiser Gary Cleaver, called on Trust bosses “to be honest” about their plans amid speculation that the hospital’s cleaning firm ISS Mediclean Ltd, was making plans for if its contract was reduced. The cleaning firm has denied that a manager made comments about the plans.
But the union described the news as the “beginning of the end” for Calderdale Royal Hospital and said they feared the ‘‘long-term privatisation agenda’’ of Trust bosses.
Mr Cleaver said: “They won’t need the cleaners and the porters if they cut it from 450 beds to 87. They can’t mothball the hospital because it’s got an extortionate mortgage on it because of the PFI deal.”
He added: “There has been no proper consultation with the public of Calderdale, who will be devastated to learn of these plans.
“And there has been no consultation with the trade unions about the effects of the plans on our members.”
Lesley Hill, director of estates, planning performance and facilities, at the Trust, said: “Although the RCRTRP plan refers to an estimate of 87 beds on the planned site, should this proposal be taken up, this refers to inpatient beds only and does not include a large amount of day case procedures, such as some wrist, hand and knee surgeries and gall bladder operations.
“Also on the planned site would be outpatient services, including routine appointments and diagnostic services such as blood tests, x-rays and ultrasound, meaning the site would continue to see a high volume of patients.
“Should these proposals be taken up, whichever site is the planned site, further work will be required to determine what will be delivered from that site in more detail. There are no plans in place at this point.”
Lesley Hill added: “There’s absolutely no truth in the assertions by Unison and they’ve had no conversation with the Trust about this. We received a letter from Unison two days after they issued their press release and we will reply to that letter.”
Halifax MP Linda Riordan said: “These are devastating proposals that urgently need stopping. It is now clear that proposed A&E closure is part of a wider agenda of cuts, job losses and privatisation plans. Health bosses and the Government are not being straight with the Halifax and Calderdale public.
“This will just cause more anguish and heartache. Unison has done a great job exposing this hidden agenda.
“I will be joining them in campaigning to stop these barmy proposals at every stage.”
The review document says roughly £150m would be needed to transform the hospital chosen to be the “unplanned” emergency centre to a total of 649 beds.
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, the preferred site, currently has 420 beds.
The hospitals’ plans will be considered by the GP-led Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in the next few months.
The CCGs are expected to announce a formal public consultation later in the year. Any decision from that can be referred to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) by Kirklees and Calderdale’s joint health and wellbeing scrutiny committee. The IRP then advises the Health Secretary who has the power to give the go-ahead or instruct a further inquiry.
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