Hospital chiefs have admitted they may have to temporarily close one of their accident and emergency departments because of staff shortages.
The trust, which runs Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital, Halifax, has drawn up plans to temporarily close one of its casualty units if staff shortages render it unsafe.
Critically-ill patients would be taken by ambulance to the nearest open casualty unit, which could be outside Kirklees and Calderdale.
Ambulance crews would be informed of the plans to prevent serious cases arriving at a closed A&E department.
Meanwhile, a reduced A&E workforce would be on hand at the closed unit to provide immediate care to seriously sick patients arriving at the wrong hospital.
Trust medical director David Birkenhead said: “It would be due to an acute and unexpected staff shortage. We are using agency staff to keep those departments running.
“It would be short-term and clearly would need consultation with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
“Clearly communication would have to be key and we have to have enough staff on site to manage that person in a safe way before transferring them to another site.”
Health bosses, however, said the plan was likely to affect ‘very few patients’ and would only happen between midnight and 8am when demand was lowest.
Greater Huddersfield CCG health director Steve Ollerton added: “It’s literally for hours. They’re not talking about shutting for a week or two weeks.”
He added: “We’re are taking about very few patients at one of these times.”
CHFT, which runs both hospitals, has struggled to recruit and retain employees, regularly hiring costly agency staff.
A CHFT spokesperson said the trust, like hospital trusts nationally, had found it difficult to hire and keep ‘middle grade’ doctors.
A shake-up of hospital services in Kirklees and Calderdale could lead to the permanent closure of an A&E department at either Huddersfield Royal Infirmary or Calderdale Royal Hospital.
A public consultation on the shake-up has been delayed until in-debt CHFT proves it is financially sustainable over the next five years .