Local GPs have declared the plan for Huddersfield Royal Infirmary as “seriously flawed, inadequate, unsafe and unworkable”.
Kirklees Local Medical Committee (LMC), a professional body representing 64 GP surgeries and more than 200 GPs, has revealed its deep opposition to the plan to move care to Halifax has not waned.
Over the past few years LMC leaders have been critical of the proposal, at one point threatening to hold a vote of no confidence and use its powers to remove health chiefs from their roles.
While that never happened, the LMC continued to lobby for a re-think, but to no avail.
With the decision now passed to the Department of Health, it has urged the people advising the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to take a much closer look at the future of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.
In a strongly worded submission, LMC chiefs have written to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) that has reviewed the hospital plan.
Alongside declaring it: “seriously flawed, inadequate, unsafe and unworkable” the doctors raise a long list of concerns about the hospital chief’s Full Business Case (FBC), which would see the infirmary demolished and replaced with an urgent care centre and 64 bed facility at Acre Mills.
Dr Bert Jindal, secretary of the Huddersfield side of Kirklees LMC, told the Examiner they were worried about safety, capacity and the cost.
In their formal letter, the LMC says the plan to have just 64 beds in Huddersfield “beggars belief”.
It says the overall bed capacity – 738 – is “woefully inadequate”, as proven by this winter’s crisis which saw hospital bosses have to halt outpatient activity and elective surgery to cope with the inpatient demand.
It says downgrades to Dewsbury and District Hospital, completed late last year, were authorised in 2014 on the basis that HRI would stay as it is.
The letter also highlights that ambulance response times in Kirklees and Calderdale are among the worst in the country, adding: “It is estimated journey times will increase by at least seven minutes (if A&E patients are taken to Halifax). This delay can have a significantly adverse effect on the clinical outcomes of many patients.”
The LMC also claims GPs will not be able to cope with the number of patients re-assigned from hospital wards to their lists.
“GP workload is at dangerously high levels and there is a risk some practices may need to close their lists to remain safe,” the letter says.
It goes on: “...there are barely sufficient GPs to man the practices to do the day job now, let alone to staff the out of hours centres, urgent care centre, provide extended hours and seven-day working.
“This position is forecast to get worse by 2020.”
The LMC objection also points to a “conflict of interest” over the structural report submitted by the hospital as it was done by its own property management company, LendLease.
At the time LendLease owned 40% of the hospital’s £200m PFI debt.
Jeremy Hunt is reported to have received the IRP’s initial report and will decide in the coming months whether to launch a second, more comprehensive investigation that would see IRP experts visit Huddersfield and Calderdale.
It is thought he may wait until after the local elections in early May to reveal his hand.
Colne Valley MP, Thelma Walker, has put Mr Hunt under pressure to say when he will publish the decision.