Hospital chiefs are plotting to close vital wards that support A&E at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
The shock revelation has been uncovered by campaign group Hands Off HRI (HoHRI).
They have said the move could threaten the viability of Huddersfield’s emergency department before the Health Secretary’s decision on whether services can move to Calderdale is officially made.
HoHRI said it had been tipped off by a reliable source within the hospital that cardiology and respiratory wards in Huddersfield were under threat of being relocated to Halifax.
Mike Forster, chairman of the group, said their lawyers had acted quickly to block the move.
He claimed their legal action had stopped the plan in its tracks.
But Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) has told the Examiner it is still considering going ahead.
A statement from HoHRI said CHFT had been trying to close the wards “on the quiet” and claimed the “stealth changes” would have brought an end to fully-functioning A&E and acute services at HRI.
It said: “This could have pre-determined the outcome of the legal process and the potential review of the closure proposals by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel.
“If emergency and acute services were moved to Calderdale it would have been a classic case of a ‘fait accompli’ with little chance of resurrecting Huddersfield’s A&E.
“Hands off HRI took immediate action, instructing their solicitors, who warned the CCGs and the NHS Trust to ‘cease all actions which could render the continuation of current services unviable at any stage in the future’.
“Such actions could make a mockery of the consultation process undermining any consultation and decision making and rendering the commitment to consult and engage with stakeholders futile.
“They could also be at odds with the reality of any final decision in the future and not take account of the serious reservations expressed by the Kirklees and Calderdale Joint Health Scrutiny Committee.”
CHFT’s Chief Operating Officer Helen Barker said: “Following clinical service reviews by the Royal College of Physicians of both our Respiratory and Elderly care services, we have been working with clinical teams to develop plans to respond to their recommendations to address the clear clinical safety and quality issues they identified.
“We are therefore proposing that we co-locate respiratory services alongside cardiology services at Calderdale and move all acute elderly medicine to HRI, meaning a slight increase in beds at HRI.
“This will improve access to senior clinicians for inpatients seven days a week and enable us to deliver a more streamlined discharge process to support patients back to their own homes.
“These decisions are currently going through the trust’s own approval arrangements and will be discussed with commissioners and scrutiny in the next few weeks.”
There are currently several reviews ongoing into the controversial plan to demolish the infirmary and move the majority of services to Calderdale.
The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) is expected to look at the hospital’s proposal if requested by the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
It has not been revealed when its decision will be published.
HoHRI has already stated it intends to launch a judicial review into the plan.
Meanwhile hospital regulator, NHS Improvement, formerly Monitor, is also reviewing the plan following hospital bosses’ decision to approve their own Full Business Case.
A third review by NHS England will be launched if health chiefs from Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group vote to support the plan next Wednesday.
Hands Off HRI has urged the people of Huddersfield to stay alert for any further stealth changes and is asking any information be forwarded to the email address: email@example.com