HOSPITAL bosses today defended their controversial decisions to shift services out of Huddersfield.
Rob Napier and Bill Mayers, who chair of the Huddersfield Central Primary Care Trust and the South Huddersfield Primary Care Trust, spoke out for the first time.
The key decisions were taken on March 22 in a day-long meeting of the Trusts.
They mean some services will be shifted from the Royal Infirmary to the Calderdale Royal Hospital, with some services moving the other way.
The decisions have attracted a storm of controversy, with tens of thousands of people in Huddersfield voicing the opposition.
But in a joint statement the two health officials insist the changes had to be made.
They said: "Two weeks ago the Boards of the three local Primary Care Trusts made important decisions about the way health services will be provided in the future.
"We know that local people had genuine concerns and fears about some of the proposals and we know that people are worried about the consequences of the decisions made.
"The changes we agreed will mean that 97% of patients will continue to receive their treatment in their local hospital - or in fact closer to home in local primary care settings.
"And yes, the decisions do mean we are asking 3% of hospital users in both Calderdale and Huddersfield to travel an extra five miles, but what we are promising in return are safer, higher standards of care.
"The changes will actually mean that HRI will have 30 more beds than Calderdale.
"Investment and development will continue in the years to come to ensure that HRI continues to be a vibrant and successful hospital.
"However, these decisions were not taken lightly. They were backed by doctors and the decision makers are residents of the area so the decisions affect not only local people but also their own families.
"They followed nearly four months of consultation with local people and their representatives, professional bodies and partners.
"We took these concerns seriously and we raised them directly with the consultants, doctors, midwives, nurses and managers at Calderdale and Huddersfield Trust.
"What we had to do was balance the genuine concerns of the public about the consequences of change against the concerns and clinical advice of the consultants and nurses on the consequences of keeping services as they are - for example in the case of maternity, not having an anaesthetist available when needed or a full consultant cover on either site.
"On a daily basis patients happily and rightly trust consultants to care for them in the best way and we have to trust what they are telling us now about the safety and quality of care.
"Through discussion, and taking into account the advice and guidelines set by national bodies, we came to the conclusion that services need to change if they are going to provide modern, safe, high quality care.
"No change was not an option and it still isn't. If we don't make these changes it is certain we will be closing both of our neo-natal units over the next couple of years - meaning tiny babies and their parents having to travel to Leeds or Manchester.
"Over the past five years, services that used to be provided in our local hospitals have been lost because we have not been able to keep up with the level of specialist care set by national bodies.
"People now have to travel to Leeds and Bradford to receive care they used to get locally.
"The decisions we made were difficult but they were based on all the information available about the ability to provide safe, high quality care that meets the demands of the future and ensures the best overall use of fixed NHS resources.
"One example of where we have had to balance these different factors is the decision to centralise obstetrics, consultant led maternity care, on the Calderdale Royal site.
"Even if we could recruit the necessary workforce, which we strongly doubt - last year only 12 UK trained doctors went into specialist training for obstetrics - the cost of maintaining an obstetric service, which complies with national standards, on both our hospital sites would mean that we would have to invest an extra £1.8m every year in obstetric care.
"We could do this only by cutting £1.8m from existing services. This would be equivalent to 8,000 outpatients appointments each year and 1,000 surgical procedures each year.
"We looked closely at suggestions for maintaining two obstetric units based on a reorganisation but our conclusion was that this was simply not a viable option.
"Under the agreed proposals, we can meet all the necessary clinical standards and free up money to invest back into community midwifery.
"Community midwifery is extremely important for the continuity of care throughout the nine months of pregnancy, not only the hours of labour.
"Mothers tell us that the chance to build this relationship with their midwife makes a huge difference to their pregnancy and birth experience.
"The changes agreed will not happen overnight. They will happen in a planned, phased way.
"The issues and concerns raised during the consultation are really important to making sure we get the implementation right.
"It's a great opportunity for people to work with us to make sure we improve access and transport to the hospital sites, and make sure that the information is developed to support people and their relatives in understanding the new arrangements.
"We will be contacting people to become involved in this but anyone else who would like to influence the implementation of the services should get in touch with us.
"We have very high performing Trusts in Calderdale and Huddersfield committed to delivering high quality care to our patients.
"We genuinely believe that the decisions made will deliver even better, safer healthcare for all local people."