A plan which could lead to the closure of Huddersfield’s A&E unit could save local NHS services £240m.
That was the claim made by health chiefs they agreed that proposals which could radically change health services in the town were deemed ready to go to a public consultation.
But the decision was taken in front of an angry audience at Huddersfield’s Briar Court Hotel. Dozens were allowed to attend the meeting and repeatedly heckled those taking part in the discussions.
The panel was told NHS services in Huddersfield and Halifax are forecast to be £281m in debt by 2022 if no changes are made.
But it is predicted the Right Care Right Time Right Place (RCRTRP) proposal will slash the funding gap to between £10.7m and
Julie Lawreniuk, finance director for Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), announced the figures at the heated meeting to discuss whether the plans were ready to go to a public consultation.
Ms Lawreniuk said: “The money were are getting isn’t keeping pace with demographics and expectations.
“Without change we cannot deliver a financially sustainable health economy.”
Directors of Greater Huddersfield CCG and Calderdale CCG, which manage local NHS services, have indicated the plan will involve the closure of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary’s accident and emergency department.
Calderdale Royal Hospital, Halifax, will house the nearest casualty department prompting concerns as to whether 999 services will be able to respond to emergencies in outlying parts of Huddersfield quickly enough.
Outlining the plan, RCRTRP programme manager, Jen Mulcahy, explained that the demand on NHS services had increased ahead of the funding available.
Pictures: A&E protest outside Briar Court
She said: “We have to deliver these standards with the expectation that the services will be delivered on a 24/7 basis.”
Ms Mulcahy admitted that HRI and CRH managers were struggling to staff hospital rotas. She added that some medical staff were leaving local hospitals and the reconfiguration of services was necessary to ensure patient safety.
Ms Mulcahy’s presentation was repeatedly interrupted by heckles and jeers from angry members of the public.
Some of the audience become frustrated that they were not allowed to ask the panel questions.
Others accused the panel of giving in to a Private Finance Initiative which allowed the Calderdale hospital to be built, but which will cost the hospital trust £773m over 60 years.
When panel members unanimously voted that the plan was ready for public consultation the decision was met with sarcastic cheers and cries of ‘Shame’.
After the meeting Greater Huddersfield CCG chair, Dr Steve Ollerton said: “People are very passionate about their local health services and that passion was evident at today’s meeting.
“We share that passion and that is why we are very eager to get out and talk to the public about our proposals. We know there is significant interest in the proposed changes and we are keen to listen to views.
“There are also some misconceptions out there and we will look forward to explaining our reasoning and processes to the public.”
But Dewsbury MP and opponent of the plan, Paula Sherriff, said: “I am seriously concerned at the decision taken by the Greater Huddersfield CCG today to go to consultation on plans to close the A&E department in Huddersfield.
“These plans, along with those to downgrade A&E at Dewsbury District Hospital, would leave the whole of Kirklees and specifically my constituency without emergency medical services and this is, quite frankly, unacceptable.
“It was proven in the meeting today that this decision is based purely on financial and not clinical reasons and I will continue to fight to ensure that my constituents can continue to access vital healthcare without having to travel unsafe distances to do so.”