As Huddersfield’s new Accident and Emergency department opens its doors to the public for the first time, campaign group, Hands off HRI, celebrates “the victory of people power” after spending years fighting to keep the vital service in the town.
Members of the public were invited to view Huddersfield’s new £15m A&E in Lindley at an open day today (21 September), showcasing the “fantastic” new facility, with the department due to open later this Autumn. The department boasts major and minor treatment areas, paediatric treatment rooms and resuscitation and X-ray bays.
However, had plans from 2016 gone ahead, the existing Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) would have been demolished and its A&E closed, sending those in need of emergency care to Calderdale and reducing the hospital bed offering from more than 400 to just 64 on the Acre Mill site opposite the infirmary.
Such plans sparked outrage across the community and prompted a tireless campaign from Hands off HRI that spanned several years. Thousands of protesters flocked to St George’s Square in Huddersfield demanding the town keep its A&E department.
A spokesperson for the group said: “Without a doubt, it was very much down to the work of Hands off HRI which built up a mass campaign of community resistance to the proposals, kicking off with a demonstration of 8,000 on 27 February, 2016.
“The following three years saw a frenzy of protests, public meetings, fundraising and intense lobbying which persuaded local councillors to reject the proposal. The pre Judicial Review hearing, brought by Hands Off HRI in 2018, concluded that the plan was open to challenge on five different legal grounds.
“This huge pressure forced Jeremy Hunt, then Secretary of State for Health, to intervene and strike down the proposal in May 2018, instead ordering the Trust to come up with a more coherent plan.
“Whilst the Hospital Trust may be congratulating themselves on the new A&E, in reality, they planned to knock it down! The people of Huddersfield won’t forget that it was their mass support for the Hands Off HRI campaign which kept our hospital open and saved it from the bulldozer.”
The group says their work is not yet complete and that they will continue to campaign for full hospital services at Calderdale and Huddersfield as there are plans to reconfigure some of the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust’s services and centralise them at Calderdale Royal Hospital. This would see more emergency and complex cases dealt with in the Halifax site, though decisions are yet to be made on the proposals