A Kirklees Council health panel will join forces with its Calderdale equivalent to watch over radical health proposals for the region.

Members of Kirklees Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel for Health and Wellbeing unanimously agreed that changes proposed to hospitals and community care were “substantial” enough to warrant a joint panel.

Much like with the changes at Dewsbury District Hospital, the joint panel will have the power to refer any decision made by local NHS bosses to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, who advise the Secretary of State for Health.

Councillors and co-optees on the Kirklees panel said they had great concerns about the potential journey times to A&E if Calderdale Royal Hospital was chosen over Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI).

The option is one of four proposals by health providers. Hospital chiefs at Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust say they favour retaining HRI for emergencies and using CRH for “planned care”.

The other options are downgrading both A&E wards or leaving the system as it is – something health chiefs have said is “unlikely”.

Clr Tony Brice said NHS bosses should be increasing A&E services, not cutting them.

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary in Lindley
 

He said: “We’re talking about a range of services but the one thing that affects everybody is the potential changes to A&E.

“Rather than thinking about moving or closing them I would like to think we could ask them to open additional services such as at Holme Valley Memorial Hospital or at Todmorden.”

He added: “I’m sceptical, I think they’re just going through the motions, that decision has already been made no matter what we do or what Calderdale do.”

Peter Mackle, a voluntary co-optee to the panel, said had concerns about traffic jams affecting ambulances and concerns about hospital workers’ spirits.

He said: “I’ve just spent a lot of time at HRI and I know from personal experience in various departments that morale levels are down.

“Have the managers got the will to carry this transformation through?”

Clr Robert Barraclough said health chiefs’ claims that journey times between the hospital were 12 minutes were “quite frankly inaccurate”.

He said: “There’s lots of things going on in this review but when you break it down it’s about A&E and saving money.”

Co-optee Laurence Walker said: “Where’s the consistency? These are the people who moved services away from HRI only a few years ago.

“They made those decisions and now they want to reverse them.

“How can we trust the plans they’ve got now when plans a few years ago were in the opposite direction?”

Co-optee Jeff Peers said the journey times mentioned in the independent report that sparked the hospitals’ move to alter services was “at the heart” of the review.

He said: “At no point do they analyse the 15 minute journey time. I think we all know most of the time that is not realistic.

“That 15 minute time has now been reduced to 12.”

Chair of the panel, Clr Viv Kendrick, said: “A lot of the things members have quite rightly raised will be looked at by the joint overview scrutiny panel in detail as it will have statutory powers.”

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