The true scale of the A&E crisis has been revealed in figures obtained by the Reporter.
Dewsbury and District Hospital repeatedly had to take emergency cases destined for another hospital, because it was full.
We have learned ambulances were diverted to our hospital more than 140 times in two years, because Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital was overwhelmed by “extreme pressure” on its services.
Despite this, health bosses still want to downgrade Dewsbury’s A&E department, cut the number of beds at the hospital from 360 to 250 by 2017 and make Pinderfields the area’s main centre for emergency care.
Member of campaign group Save Dewsbury Hospital, and parliamentary candidate Paula Sherriff (Lab) said: “These figures are shocking and prove beyond all doubt why we must maintain fully operational A&E departments in both Dewsbury and Wakefield.
“If Pinderfields’ A&E department can not cope at present, how could it possibly cope if it had at least 2,000 extra patients a month to see, as it will if the downgrade of Dewsbury A&E department is put into practice?”
Fellow campaigner Coun Karen Rowling (Lab, Dews West) said: “We remain fully committed to fighting the downgrade of services at Dewsbury hospital as we firmly believe that lives will be lost if these proposals are implemented.”
The figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show ambulances were diverted to Dewsbury from Pinderfields for as long as 10 hours on 146 occasions during 2012 and 2013.
There were 60 patients waiting to be seen in A&E at Pinderfields on one day. On another there were no beds available, 46 patients in A&E and four trauma cases en route to the hospital.
Diverts were put in place twice on December 1, 2013, when the hospital could not accept any more admissions but 36 beds were available at Dewsbury. Batley and Spen Mike Wood (Lab) said: “This is very troubling news. If Dewsbury is carrying the load for Pinderfields as often as it appears then this is another strong argument against downgrading our A&E.”
But the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust insists its proposals for A&E and other services will resolve the issue.
Its deputy chief operating officer Neil Clark said:
The figures on diverted ambulances have also been met with concern by professional bodies.
Royal College of Nursing regional director Glenn Turp said: “These figures will be very worrying for the local population. It is important that all Trusts have a long-term workforce strategy in place to ensure hospitals can cope with rises in demand without compromising patient care.”
Mr Clark said: “We only put diverts in place when absolutely necessary to maintain safe patient care at times of extreme pressure.
“The diverts mainly occur between our Dewsbury and Pinderfields sites, keeping our patients within our care and as close to home as possible.
“Any patient that needs immediate resuscitation is always taken to the nearest appropriate ED, even if an ambulance divert is in place.”
Meanwhile, the independent panel tasked with reviewing the Trust’s service reorganisation proposals on behalf of the government reported back to Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt on Wednesday.
Its recommendations have not been made public, and Mr Hunt will now take 30 days consider whether the plans can proceed.