A family doctor dubbed the “architect” of hospital shake-up plans ran the gauntlet of angry protesters at a public meeting.

Dr Steve Ollerton, a Skelmanthorpe GP and chairman of the Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group, tried to soften up his audience right from the off.

Posing against a big screen image of his four-day-old niece Evie – born at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax – he went for the sympathy vote.

But if he thought he would get an easy ride, he was wrong.

Dr Ollerton went outside before the meeting at the John Smith’s Stadium and had an impromptu question and answer session with union campaigner Mike Forster.

“This will actually save lives,” he insisted. Though few believed him.

After his outdoor appearance, before most people arrived, he set out his stall with a charm offensive.

He introduced little Evie and said: “I am her Uncle Steve.” However, his politician’s equivalent of kissing a baby failed to cut any ice.

Public meeting on hospital shake-up at John Smiths stadium. Head of CCG Steve Ollerton before the meeting.

“I want to improve the NHS for the whole population,” he added. “That is what we are going to do.”

Dr Ollerton even went for humour. All went well with the birthing experience. Except for the car parking.

“They managed to get there all right but they couldn’t park,” he said.

“You might want to do something about that,” he grinned nervously towards officials on the top table.

Still no-one was laughing.

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

There are concerns over increased travelling times to Halifax, especially from outlying districts, and Dr Ollerton addressed fears over “deaths on the Elland by-pass.”

He said: “When you are in an ambulance you are getting treatment and you will have a better hospital when you get there.”

Video thumbnail, McCartney slams CCG panel over lack of plan B (John Smiths meeting)
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More derision and disbelief.

“Huddersfield is a bigger town than Halifax,” he admitted. No-one could argue with that. Cheers.

Then another admission. “I don’t mind admitting it’s financially-driven.”

That touched a nerve.

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“You are doing the town down,” said a voice.

“You destroyed the finances,” roared another.

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“What’s the point of consultation?” called someone else.

“It’s a fix,” yelled a man at the back.

Dr Ollerton still wasn’t done. “My son was in A&E this morning. Yes, we made it, don’t worry.”

No-one found out why.

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Before the public questions an announcement that three cars had been left in a pet shop car park and if they weren’t moved they’d be locked in. No-one claimed ownership. Maybe a ride home isn’t as important as the future health care of Huddersfield folk.

WATCH: Queue snakes around John Smith's stadium for public meeting

Video thumbnail, Queue outside John Smiths (Simon Morley)
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Jean Booth told how she had her children in Huddersfield. She claimed one or two babies had already died on Elland bypass.

Dr Ollerton repeated: “We are confident lives will be saved by these proposals.”

Owen Williams, chief officer for Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, admitted “transportation was an issue” and that they didn’t have an “exact answer” at this stage.

“It’s wrong for us to assume we have all the answers because we don’t,” he added. “I want us to be honest about this.”

Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman had a roar of approval when he accused NHS bosses of misleading him into believing Calderdale’s A&E would shut, not Huddersfield’s.

Public meeting on hospital shake-up at John Smiths stadium. MP Barry Sheerman arrives at the meeting.

The Rev Mike Smith from Marsden wasn’t taking prisoners either.

“Is this a genuine consultation or are you telling us plebs what you want us to know?” he said. “If the CCG had any guts they would resign en mass.”

But one speaker, former hospital doctor Barbara Brown, earned a standing ovation when she turned the fire back on Dr Ollerton.

“Note to Steve,” she said. “You are not very popular with local GPs. You apparently told one GP that it’s going to take more than 40,000 signatures to stop this.”

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

Uproar.

Before the meeting started there was a ‘housekeeping’ note that the room was getting warm and the heating was being turned off in favour of the air conditioning.

Could it have been a warning about the “hot air” to come? Or was it Dr Ollerton getting a little hot under the collar?

If he didn’t know before he does now. The CCG is in a real fight.