Don’t let A&E become a casualty – a simple message capturing the concerns of many of our readers across the district.
It was at the heart of a campaign we ran 18 months ago when plans to downgrade Dewsbury and District Hospital’s busy A&E department first came to light.
And this week, we’re making the same plea to Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt as he considers the deeply unpopular proposals for local hospital services.
We’ll be gathering views from our readers, local politicians and campaign groups that have fought so hard to protect local services and sending them directly to Mr Hunt.
North Kirklees and Wakefield’s clinical commissioning groups – led by local GPs – backed the Mid Yorkshire Hospital Trust’s plans to reorganise its A&E service at hospitals in Dewsbury, Wakefield and Pontefract last summer.
They also gave the go-ahead to the centralisation of some children’s and maternity services at Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital, which would also become the major centre for emergency and complex care.
But Kirklees and Wakefield councillors sitting on joint health scrutiny committee had their doubts over whether the changes were in the best of interest of patients.
And we know many of our readers share their doubts.
Reporter Series editor Hannah Ridgeway said: “Councillors were right to take their concerns to the highest level and refer the plans to Jeremy Hunt.
“Since they made that decision, we’ve seen worrying new evidence of the demands being placed on our A&E departments.
“Only two weeks ago, we obtained figures that showed emergency cases destined for Pinderfields were repeatedly sent to Dewsbury – and that’s why we’re repeating the message of our campaign.”
The figures showed ambulances were diverted to Dewsbury hospital 146 times in two years, because Pinderfields was overwhelmed by “extreme pressure” on its services.
But the hospital trust insists its proposals for A&E and other services will reduce waiting times and cancelled operations, reduce the amount of time people spend in hospital and save more lives.
Its deputy chief operating officer Neil Clark said: “Proposals set out in our clinical services strategy are designed to prevent the need to divert ambulances by centralising care for the most complex urgent care at Pinderfields and increasing the number of beds for unplanned admissions there.
“This would also have the benefit of reducing disruption to services at Dewsbury – meaning fewer planned operations being postponed when we receive higher numbers of emergency cases.”
The independent panel tasked with reviewing the proposals on behalf of the government reported back to Mr Hunt on February 19.
Its recommendations have not been made public, and Mr Hunt is expected to take around 30 days to consider whether the plans can proceed.
Miss Ridgeway said: “We can’t be sure what the independent panel has recommended, but we are sure of how many of our readers feel about the possibility of their local A&E department being downgraded.
“They’re worried about what will happen when a loved one needs emergency care, whether Pinderfields can cope with the additional cases and what it will mean for the long-term future of Dewsbury’s hospital.
“We can’t miss this opportunity to make those arguments again before it’s too late.
“We’ll be sending Mr Hunt a copy of all the articles we ran during the campaign, along with all the comments sent in by our readers this week.”
Our campaign included a petition against the downgrading of Dewsbury’s A&E, which was signed by more than 10,600 people.
It was presented to the hospital trust in November 2012, before the final proposal for services was drawn up and put out to public consultation.
Send your message for Jeremy Hunt to firstname.lastname@example.org or Reporter Series, 17 Wellington Road, Dewsbury, WF13 1HQ by noon on Monday March 10.