By Tony Earnshaw- LDRS
The man who has led the campaign to save Huddersfield Royal Infirmary has rubbished a report that says the site is to get a new A&E department.
Mike Forster, chairman of Hands Off HRI (HoHRI), said health chiefs remain committed to downgrading A&E facilities in Huddersfield despite talk of a £196.5m investment.
Responding to an update report presented to a meeting of the Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee last week (Sept 25), which outlined almost £200m of investment at HRI and Calderdale Royal Hospital (CRH), Mr Forster said Huddersfield was still set to lose out.
He poured scorn on a section that said: “At HRI the investment will enable the build of a new A&E department and the improvement of existing buildings to address the most critical estate maintenance and safety requirements.”
He said previous proposals to strip Huddersfield of its A&E and to reduce bed numbers remained in place and that the bulk of the cash would be spent in Halifax.
Reacting to the update he said: “They have decided to allocate over £170m to Calderdale to expand CRH and reduce facilities at HRI. That expansion will see us lose 150 beds and see Halifax gain but not by as many.
“All acute emergency care staff will be transferred to Calderdale Royal Hospital. In Huddersfield we will be left with a small walk-in centre. HRI will be for rehabilitation and elderly care – and it will have less than 200 beds.”
Mr Forster said that scenario meant anyone being picked up ambulance in Huddersfield would be taken to Halifax, and that anyone who walked in to A&E at Huddersfield would be triaged and “blue-lighted” to Halifax if their condition demanded it.
And he pointed out that the £20m allocated to Huddersfield was for adapting existing buildings and would be spent over a five-year period.
The massive reconfiguration of both sites will see a new multi-storey car park built on the CRH site allied to planned improvements of the A629 Elland Bypass.
Mr Forster added: “We are opposed to losing A&E services. They should have a dual staff model and have staff at both sites.”
Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust (CHFT) says both hospitals will be “digital by design” following investment and improvements.
If a design for HRI is completed by January 2021 then a planning application will be submitted to Kirklees Council.
That will be followed by the submission of a Full Business Case to NHS England and the Department of Health and Social Care.
Construction work is hoped to begin by December 2021 with completion in 2023.