Infant mortality and obesity are some of the big problems facing North Kirklees. That’s one of the challenges facing North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), but its chief officer said health services have the ability to cope.
The Reporter Series was given an insight into the workings of the CCG, and invited to speak to its chief officer Chris Dowse.
In her Empire House office overlooking Dewsbury town centre, Miss Dowse said: “We commission services for 190,000 people and we have a responsibility to assess their needs.
“With the regular health assessments in the area, we are able to get an overall view of the population and that allows us to make decisions on what services we should be concentrating on.
“The findings in the last assessment reflect the national picture, which are problems that come with an ageing population. For example, we are seeing longer waiting lists for services for diabetes, asthma and other respiratory problems.”
She also outlined an interesting trend in the population, with both ends of the age spectrum increasing.
“We have a large young population too,” she added. “Basically there are a lot of babies being born in this patch, so the young population is also growing, and that brings its own challenges.
“There is also a lot of deprivation and cultural differences in Kirklees, which can affect people’s health.
“When it comes to things like this we can’t solve it on our own, and we need to work with the council.
“We also have ambitions to create strong relations with the council over the next two or three years. A strong partnership with the local authority will stand us in good stead for the future.”
During the restructuring of healthcare in Kirklees over the past couple of years, criticisms were made that not enough was done to keep services in Dewsbury and District Hospital, and Chris was keen to set the record straight.
“The hospital is not losing its accident and emergency department,” she said. “We have been very clear about that as a trust.
“What is happening is that the Pinderfields site is enhancing its services, and the trust is in a better state to manage critical patients.
“The A&E department at Dewsbury will continue to operate 24 hours a day, and it will still be seeing 80 percent of the patients it was seeing before.”
Consultant-led maternity units are set to be based in Pinderfields, with Dewsbury operating a midwife-led maternity unit, but Chris believes there are benefits to the decision.
She said: “As far as maternity units go, there is a lot of evidence to suggest women get better care from midwife-led units than they do from consultant-led ones.
“There will still be consultants at Pinderfields – and they will be in contact with midwives working at the unit in Dewsbury.”
A total of 250 beds will be taken out of Dewsbury Hospital by 2017, with 80 further beds added to Pinderfields.
On this, she said: “With the new thinking and transformation of the services, we have more people being dealt with in their own homes. It’s about switching services.”
A new children’s assessment unit in Dewsbury Hospital opened in the summer, and Chris sees it as a sign of the hospital expanding its range of services.
“We offer many more services at the hospital now and it is more thriving than it has been for some time – we have a new paediatric assessment unit, which will increase the number of young people who can be treated without being admitted overnight.”
On the possibility of Dewsbury Hospital closing in the future, she was clear.
“Not on my watch. It is not going to close – I cannot emphasise that more,” she said.
“If anything it is offering more services than it was before and is more vibrant than it has ever been.”
The CCG will hold a meeting on ways it can improve its health care at Batley Town Hall on Wednesday January 28, 1.30pm–3.30p. Visit\ http://helpshapeourplans.eventbrite.co.uk to book.