Opponents of a major hospital and health care shake-up have accused health chiefs of denying them their say.
The allegation comes after NHS managers overseeing proposals in Huddersfield and Calderdale revealed they were delaying a public consultation on their controversial plans.
As reported, they include a bid to move more care out of hospitals and a split in services between Calderdale Royal Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary, with only the latter retaining a full A&E department.
The delay in consultation, which was due this autumn, was announced late last week and initially welcomed by campaigners as a sign that the unpopular proposals were on shaky ground.
But NHS activists now say they suspect the wait is to deny them the chance to say no.
A spokesman for Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) said they were “fully committed” to public consultation at a later date.
Jenny Shepherd, a member of the Save Calderdale Royal Hospital group, said: “Effectively, by steaming ahead without public consultation, NHS commissioners are proposing to take away the public’s right to take part in making decisions about a significant service change.
“It may be that the proposed Care Closer to Home system is the best thing since sliced bread, but the public has a right to make up their minds about this and tell the NHS commissioners what they think.
“Postponing the public consultation on the hospital cuts would make the outcome a foregone conclusion, since commissioners do not have money to continue to run existing hospital services alongside the new community health and social care system.”
It will set off from Calderdale Royal Hospital at 9am and arrive at the infirmary at noon.
Walk for the NHS organiser Katherine Horner said: “Neither Calderdale CCG nor Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust seem to understand that the people of Calderdale and Huddersfield deserve a say on their local health services and what they would like to see.
“We don’t want to be fobbed off with boring power point presentations at poorly attended and poorly advertised meetings, or have the plans forced upon us.
“The hospitals and the CCGs believe in a practice of smoke and mirrors and misinformation, constantly refuse to listen, and now the CCGs want to deprive the public of a consultation they deserve.”
Rosemary Hedges, secretary of Calderdale 38 Degrees NHS Campaign, a group which has collected over 1,500 signatures from people in Calderdale who are opposed to the “Right Care” NHS shake-up, said: “Once again the CCG has shown it is not prepared to listen to its public nor to the elected representatives of its public, instead ploughing ahead with unpopular and pre-agreed plans which will end in the dismantling of our local health services. This is not what we want nor deserve.”
A spokesman for the CCGs said: “Both Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale CCGs believe, that from the engagement so far, the only way they will persuade people of the need for change in the way that hospital services are configured is by putting in place enhanced and integrated community services in advance.
“Both foresee that changes to ‘in hospital’ services will be required and believe that the timing of formal consultation to those changes will be crucial as to attempt consultation now risks losing the opportunity for change that will ultimately be of benefit to everyone in the future.
“Both CCGs are fully committed to a public consultation.”
Chairman of Greater Huddersfield CCG Dr Steve Ollerton added: “Both Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale CCGs have done significant engagement in order to inform our Care Closer to Home models.
“Engagement is about listening to people’s views and we will continue to engage with the public and stakeholders, in order to further inform our proposals.”