Health chiefs are set to postpone until next year a public consultation on plans to shake-up hospital services.
The surprise move comes after months of campaigning against proposals to create specialist acute and planned hospitals in Huddersfield and Halifax.
The plan, first revealed at the start of 2014, include the downgrading of one A & E unit and a large reduction in beds amid an increase in community care.
A plan to host a public consultation this summer was delayed in June after NHS England raised concerns about some processes.
Now the two region’s health chiefs say they will shelve any consultation until after community services are re-shaped to show they have “listened to the public”.
Opponents of the plan have welcomed the delay.
Documents for board members at Greater Huddersfield Clinical Commissioning Group say consultation in 2014 would provide “an early opportunity for people to have their say”, and allow the hospitals to tackle staff shortages and cash pressures.
But it says it would delay the new model for community services and risk the public consultation being focussed only on hospital changes and not the whole health system.
Board members are asked to support delaying a decision on the hospital shake-up
The report says: “It would allow us to continue our changes to community care so that we could provide direct experience of an effective community model and demonstrate that we have listened to the public.
“Having considered the strengths and weaknesses of both options, we believe that we should change our timeline, delay consultation and adopt a phased approach to implementation.
“It is the considered view of the CCGs that this approach is more likely to deliver the long term prize which we are seeking than to take the alternative approach.”
The report admits the change in focus would mean “increasing the risk of a deterioration in the quality of services our hospitals”.
Gary Scott, chairman of Band Together For Our NHS, said: “Hopefully that’s a delay to the implementation and not just a delay to the consultation.
“They know any consultation now would just rip them apart. We’ve said all along, show us that the community model works before you go and make any changes to the hospitals”.
Halfiax MP, Linda Riordan, said: “It’s not surprising the so called consultation has been delayed again.
“They probably realise what people across Halifax and Calderdale are saying. Simply, ‘hands off our A & E’.
“Health bosses now realise this isn’t a straightforward issue. Therefore it’s time they came clean, admit they’ve made a mistake, and announce that both A & Es are safe and secure.”
Hospital chiefs from Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust favour retaining the infirmary as the main acute site with a full A & E.
The Halifax site would be converted into a lower urgency hospital, predominantly for out-patient appointments and planned surgery.