Don’t forget about us - that’s the message from our North Kirklees MPs to health chiefs as the tug-of-war between Huddersfield and Calderdale over the future of their hospitals continues.
A trio of proposals have landed on his desk of Health Secretary Matt Hancock; one has been drawn up by NHS chiefs. another comes from Calderdale Council. and the third has been conceived by senior members of Kirklees Council and has received cross-party support.
Health chiefs’ so-called “enhanced plan” includes providing 24/7 consultant-led A&E services at both Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and Calderdale Royal Hospital.
But they have warned that to maintain both sites will affect planned revenue savings, and so further cutbacks will be necessary.
Kirklees Council’s proposal seeks to build a new state-of-the-art hospital between Huddersfield and Dewsbury with an estimated cost of up to £300m.
It would retain and invest in the existing HRI site, maintaining Accident & Emergency provision, until the new hospital is built. That could take 10 years.
Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin (Lab) said: “My Batley and Spen constituents desperately need improved access to emergency care after the downgrade of Dewsbury and District Hospital and it is imperative that any proposals serve their best interests.
“I fought the Dewsbury downgrade, I have supported the battle to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and I will continue to fight for a properly-funded, publically owned NHS that serves everyone, regardless of where they live.
“And while it is encouraging that other options for HRI are now being considered, thanks in large part to the tremendous HandsoffHRI campaign and the other groups who have so fiercely fought its closure, what is being proposed falls short.
“The latest HRI proposals will not deliver a comprehensive accident and emergency department with ambulance admissions and will leave Kirklees without a fully-functioning A&E.
“A new hospital in Kirklees with an A&E is one potential solution. Here in Batley and Spen people are forced to leave the district on a daily basis to get the care they urgently need, putting increased pressure on already overstretched hospitals such as Pinderfields and Calderdale.
“That is why any proposal that enables my constituents to be seen swiftly at a time of crisis is welcome, but a much greater level of detail on the plans is required and it must not be delivered at the expense of other services.”
Dewsbury MP Paula Sheriff (Lab) said: “I am pleased that NHS England has recognised the need to retain a hospital in Huddersfield. However, I remain cautious about the detail, especially around the Accident and Emergency department, until the full proposal is released.
“We already have a reduced capacity Emergency Department in Dewsbury with patients being diverted to Pinderfields on a daily basis and I am seeking assurance that the offer in Huddersfield would be far more comprehensive than that.
“My constituency sits between Dewsbury District Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and I have grave concerns about ambulance travel times if the only available acute emergency treatment is at Wakefield or Halifax. As I have said many times previously, Kirklees is an area with a population of 500,000 and needs a fully staffed, fully functioning Accident and Emergency department to serve its population.
“I am incredibly proud of the HRI campaigners who have shown incredible resolve throughout this fight and I believe that it is testament to their hard work and relentless determination that NHS England have U-turned on their original plans. I look forward to continuing work with them as we seek reassurance that the detail around these proposals properly serves the healthcare needs of our area.
“With regard to the announcement by Kirklees Council, I believe that NHS England’s new proposals for HRI prove that the fight to protect these vital local services is not over.
“Given the Conservatives’ refusal to properly fund local government, I am deeply concerned that Kirklees Council’s plan is overly ambitious given the tight constraints imposed on the Council’s finances.”