Planned closures of hospital services across England would be suspended by an incoming Labour government, the party’s Shadow Health secretary said today (Wed).
Jonathan Ashworth travelled to a social club in Batley to make the announcement accompanied by Barry Sheerman, Tracy Brabin, Paula Sherriff, Thelma Walker, the Labour candidates for Huddersfield, Batley and Spen, Dewsbury and Colne Valley respectively.
He told around 100 cheering people: “These Tory plans to downgrade hospitals have not had the public’s involvement.
“We can’t have a system where A&E are downgraded or closed so, I am announcing today, that a Labour Government on its first day it will stop this hospital closure programme.”
He said the national scheme, involving 44 local plans, has lost credibility and needs reviewing.
Under proposals put forward, A&E, maternity and stroke units could be scaled back in many parts of England.
This issue is of particular concern in the Kirklees area where A&E facilities at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary are set to be transferred to Calderdale Royal Hospital while Dewsbury Hospital also facing its A&E facilities being downgraded.
Campaign groups in Huddersfield have vociferously objected to the proposed changes.
NHS bosses in conjunction with Conservative ministers said the programme was necessary to modernise the NHS and allow more investment in community services.
But Labour said these sustainability and transformation plans were causing confusion. It claims that they risk being driven by money rather than what is best for patients.
Mr Ashworth said a “moratorium” was now needed so each of the plans could be properly reviewed and the public’s involvement needed to be more intense than a “tick-box” exercise.
He said: “These decisions have been decided behind closed doors with no genuine involvement of local people.
“It’s a disgrace. The public deserves better. We want to bring a halt to them. What is being proposed at Huddersfield would leave people without reasonable access.
“There are worries about downgrading Dewsbury and I think we just need to look at it all again.
But the Conservatives say the necessary funding is in place to pay for the changes and dismissed the idea.
Afterwards, Ms Sherriff, said of the announcement: “It’s fabulous. I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do.
“I am very encouraged by the fact that there will be a review of the current proposals from day one.”
And Ms Brabin added: “I think it is absolutely excellent that he chose Batley and Spen to launch this.