Campaigners fighting the downgrading of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary have urged hospital bosses to be more transparent with their plans.
But they fear that health chiefs are unwilling to share any updated information that might compromise the controversial shake-up of hospitals in Huddersfield and Halifax.
Senior managers with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) have just over a month to finalise details before they must report back to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
In a strongly worded letter dated May 10 Mr Hunt referred to a report by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) which highlighted “a wide variety of failings which call into question the benefits of this scheme and the way in which the process has been managed.”
He asked for a response in three months – by August 10.
But despite being addressed by campaigners, and quizzed about timescales by councillors at a meeting of Kirklees and Calderdale’s Joint Health Scrutiny Committee (JHSC), hospital bosses remained tight-lipped.
Anna Basford, Director of Transformation and Partnerships at CHFT, said the trust “wanted to do the right thing regarding consultation” with the public.
She added that the status of the trust’s business case had not changed but that the trust was looking at a phased rather than one-step approach “to address concerns.”
That meant maintaining a level of hospital capacity and having an element of double-running across dual sites.
She said the phasing option had risks and benefits but stressed “we do not have an agreed position at this moment in time.”
Joint committee chair Clr Liz Smaje summed up the scenario saying: “It’s the same plan, but phased.”
She added: “Do you think that that will address the concerns that were raised in the IRP report?”
Ms Basford answered: “We are seeking to satisfy those concerns and formulate a response that will satisfy those concerns.”
Cristina George, from Hands Off HRI, said the failings identified by the IRP and highlighted by Mr Hunt offered “a real opportunity to go back to the drawing board.”
And referring to a workshop set to take place prior to the final submission she said campaign groups should be represented, saying a failure to do so would be “a lost opportunity to demonstrate transparency.”
But speaking after the meeting she expressed their disappointment at the lack of detail.
“It was a complete whitewash,” she said. “I don’t think we had any information at all. We don’t know any more now than when we went in.
“They said it was the same plan; they said it was a different plan. We don’t know what sort of plan it’s going to be. And they cannot do enough work from now until August 10.”
Jenny Shepherd, from 999 Call for the NHS, called for the trust to upfront with its plans in the time remaining before the deadline.
“How can you have effective scrutiny if the public don’t know what is happening? That is very concerning. It’s a travesty.
“With such a deeply flawed plan how can they come up with something that is demonstrably viable in three months? Making little tweaks is not going to do it.
“They have not done enough work to be able to say what they are doing. Are they incompetent or dishonest? The upshot is always the same. They are desperate not to let the public know. Their idea of talking to the public is not what I would call talking to the public.”
No-one from either NHS England or NHS Improvement attended the meeting, which one councillor described as “regrettable.”