£196m capital funding for hospitals revamp – the letter that Halifax Courier didn’t print

18 December, 2018

Dear Editor,

The Halifax Courier report on the conditional allocation of £196m capital funding for the Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals revamp repeated the official spin that this is an “investment” in the NHS.

But the revised plan – which the local NHS organisations cobbled together in secret over the summer – would still result in cuts to hospital services and their replacement by out-of-hospital services that are not clinically or financially evidenced, or publicly supported.

This revised plan remains as contentious as the original plan that was rejected by both the public consultation and Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee.

If the NHS quangos NHS Improvement and NHS England approve the hospital trust’s full business case – which has not yet been written –  a substantial amount of money may be invested in new acute and emergency hospital buildings at Calderdale Royal Infirmary. (Although Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group reckons there is a serious risk that this will not happen.)

But the revised plan is still to reduce Calderdale and Huddersfield District General Hospitals to one acute and emergency hospital in Halifax for all patients from both areas, and one small planned care hospital in Huddersfield, also for all patients in both areas – with the addition of a glorified walk-in urgent care centre for patients in Greater Huddersfield.

The official spin is that the revised plan includes 24/7 consultant-led A&E services at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. But there is no  clarity that there will be an A&E consultant presence at Huddersfield.

It seems that the Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock is now trying to do to Huddersfield what his predecessor Jeremy Hunt tried unsuccessfully to do to Lewisham Hospital – close it as an acute hospital under cover of false story about keeping a 24-hour ‘small A&E’.

If the poor results of a similar “reconfiguration” of hospital and community services in Wakefield, Dewsbury and Pontefract are anything to go by, we fear the money will be wasted.

For all these reasons, this revised plan urgently requires public scrutiny.  But Calderdale and Kirklees Councils’ Joint Health Scrutiny Committee cancelled its planned November meeting, which was to have scrutinised the hospital Trust’s Strategic Outline Case and key clinical and financial sustainability documents.

In the meantime, the hospital Trust has sent its Strategic Outline Case to NHS Improvement – with no public scrutiny or involvement.

Since the revised hospital cuts plan was cobbled together by local NHS organisations in a 3 month review that excluded the public,  any further failures to inform and involve the public would be disastrous.

Jenny Shepherd
Chair, Calderdale and Kirklees 999 Call for the NHS

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