Concerned members of the public have questioned health officials’ plans to alter services as they bid to save £160m over the next five years.
A public meeting over plans to reconfigure health and social care was set up at Huddersfield Town Hall by patients’ group Healthwatch Kirklees.
But only a handful of people turned out to grill health chiefs about their plans, which could see one A&E close.
The low attendance has been blamed on Healthwatch not manning a seat reservation phone line – something it has vowed to correct in the future.
As reported, Huddersfield and Calderdale NHS chiefs’ plans hinge on a strategy to move more services into the community and specialise ‘planned’ services at one hospital and emergency services at another.
However, other options are still on the table, including downgrading both Huddersfield and Halifax casualty wards.
Questions from some of the dozen or so residents who attended the meeting included:
Is this about budget cuts?
Why are you doing this?
Will the future spend on health care be more or less per person?
Are you worried about increasing the journey time to A&E if only one hospital has full A&E services?
Members of the public also made their views known, with several saying they thought having just one A&E was unsafe and longer journey times in ambulances made clinical outcomes worse, something Dr Steve Ollerton, chair of Greater Huddersfield CCG, disputed.
Dr Ollerton said a longer journey time may well be mitigated by better care on arrival at the most suitable place to be treated.
He said: “It might take ten or 20 minutes longer to get there but that’s far better than turning up at a hospital that doesn’t have the right facilities.
“Yorkshire Ambulance Service will be testing the travel times and they will need to demonstrate the proposals are safe.
“Elland bypass is often a mess but if the ambulance people say they can get through we have to believe them.”
Dr Ollerton said it was their hope that they could cut A&E attendance in the long term as more than half were for minor injuries that could be dealt with elsewhere.
Dr Ollerton said GPs were “waking up” to the fact they needed to work weekends but admitted the CCG could not force them to open their doors.
Commenting on the size of any future A&E, Catherine Riley from Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust, said they would have to expand if they went to a one site option.
But Dr Ollerton, said: “If we have to double it we will have failed with delivering our community care.”
He added: “We have to decide how much of the plan is deliverable and try to deliver it.
“Our current model has two hospitals doing exactly the same thing.
“Going into the future trying to do everything twice is not sustainable or affordable.
“We’ve decided things need to change but we don’t know what that change is yet.”
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