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Hundreds shut out of hospital meeting as protesters descend on John Smith's Stadium

People fear consultation is a sham

Hundreds of people turned out in a mass show of strength against controversial hospital shake-up plans.

A call to arms by campaigners fighting to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary saw crowds of angry protesters descend on the John Smith’s Stadium.

It was the second of two public consultation meetings organised by local NHS bosses.

The meeting, held in the Revell Ward Suite, was limited to a capacity of 500 seats.

It was full and there were another 120 people in the overflow Howarths Suite downstairs.

Watch queue snake round John Smith's stadium as protesters descend

Up to 150 more gathered outside the main entrance of the stadium and stayed throughout the two hours of the meeting as daylight faded.

Their angry chants could be heard inside the main meeting room.

After a steady start there were soon queues building up outside and the meeting got underway with people still filing into the overflow room.

A procession of Green Party activists, led by the party’s national leader Natalie Bennett, snaked down from Huddersfield Railway Station.

Backed by the Examiner, hospital campaigners have launched the biggest public protest in a generation.

Under pressure from the Government, local Clinical Commissioning Groups have drawn up plans under the Right Care Right Time Right Place banner.

Under the plans all emergency care – including A&E – will move to Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax, leaving Huddersfield Royal Infirmary as a centre for planned and routine care.

The existing HRI building will be closed and a new hospital built on the nearby Acre Mills site.

A 14-week public consultation was launched last month and the first public meeting went ahead last Thursday at North Bridge Leisure Centre in Halifax.

More than 5,000 people joined a march through Huddersfield town centre in February.

A panel of NHS bosses, led by Skelmanthorpe GP Dr Steve Ollerton, chairman of Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group, faced tough questioning from members of the public.

Dr Ollerton denied the consultation was a “sham” but there were more questions than answers.

People spoke with real passion both inside and outside the meeting.

Louise Peace, of Almondbury, came with a placard emblazoned with the hand prints of her whole family.

“It’s tough to fight the powers that be,” she said. “You are brought up to believe that doctors are always right. I am doing this for my family.”

READ MORE: John Smith's Stadium meeting: Dr Steve Ollerton turns on charm offensive — but few buy it

READ MORE: Hundreds left outside John Smith's Stadium as hospital meeting held — live updates

She was joined by her mum, Helen Auty, who said: “I have never been as angry about anything.

“Nobody wants this and everybody in Huddersfield should stand up and say no.”

Christina George said the loss of services at Huddersfield was “the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.”

She added: “This is all about money. Surely human life is more important than money?”

After the meeting Colne Valley Tory MP Jason McCartney said the pressure had been turned up on NHS chiefs.

“Clearly they have made their minds up and there is no Plan B,” he said. “It’s clear the public have no confidence in the CCG. They are just saying it will all be OK.

“People were very passionate as I expected them to be. It is the biggest issue I have known in our community but I am seriously concerned they have already made their mind up.

“They should have consulted on all three options: Huddersfield, Calderdale and both.”

Afterwards #HandsOffHRI campaign founder Karl Deitch said: “People were getting frustrated in the meeting because they have so many questions and were not getting any answers.

Public meeting on hospital shake-up at John Smiths stadium. Karl Deitch.

"The managers started speaking about their careers and about what they have done in the NHS but we can read that on their biographies. What we want is answers to our questions.

“I was really happy with the turnout but I think we need another meeting and the health bosses need to get their answers straight.

“Some said the decision is about clinical reasons while others said it was the PFI, but which is it? We all know it’s about the money.”



Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent