The campaign to save A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary takes to the streets next week... and you dont' want to miss it.
The Examiner has hired a double-decker ‘battle bus’ emblazoned with Save Our A&E banners which will tour the town on both Tuesday – the day the public consultation into the controversial proposals is launched – and Wednesday.
So if you spot the bus make sure you show your support by honking your car horns or giving us a wave.
There will be reports and video from the bus throughout both days so you can follow its progress and what’s happening on our website, Facebook, Twitter and also in the paper.
People will be able to climb aboard to sign the petition, and we'll have posters and stickers to give away.
The routes will be unveiled on Monday.
Examiner editor Roy Wright said: “This campaign has captured our readers’ imagination and we know just about the entire population is behind our fight to save A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. It will be a battle so we thought we’d better get a battle bus!
“We’ve now decided to take the campaign right out into some of the communities that will be affected by such a massive change to emergency care. We feel strongly that due to the number of people living in Huddersfield and Calderdale and the widespread nature of the areas A&E units should be kept at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital.”
Here is the design for our Battle Bus:
On board the bus will be Examiner reporters and a photographer along with leading members of the #HandsOffHRI campaign which began as Facebook group Let’s Save Huddersfield A&E and now has almost 47,000 followers.
Campaign chairman Karl Deitch added: “The battle bus will be a highly visual way of getting the message across to as many people as we possibly can. The bus and the large protest rally in St George’s Square will surely get across to those behind the plan that we are deadly serious in battling in to keep something so important to people throughout Huddersfield – their A&E at HRI.”
The plan put forward by Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Groups is called Right Care Right Time Right Place and would see the current Huddersfield Royal Infirmary demolished and replaced by a smaller hospital with an ‘urgent care centre’ but, crucially, without full emergency care services.
Emergency care services will be transferred to Calderdale Royal Hospital which will be expanded to focus on serious and life-threatening cases.
Campaigners believe health chiefs have been forced into this move for financial reasons caused by a crippling debt that must be paid for Calderdale Royal.
The hospital cost £64m to build with Private Finance Initiative money and opened in 2001 but under the deal more than £773m would need to be repaid over 60 years.
This now costs Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust £22m a year in repayments and associated costs which is plunging it ever deeper into debt.