Jeremy Hunt has rejected a bid to stop the downgrading of Dewsbury’s A&E department - despite years of campaigning by residents and The Reporter.
The Health Secretary was asked to examine the deeply unpopular plan by Kirklees and Wakefield councillors sitting on a joint health scrutiny committee. Mr Hunt has taken just 16 days to back the Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust’s plan.
This means emergency cases will go to Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital. Some children’s and maternity services will also be centralised at Pinderfields.
Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said: “I am convinced that as a result of this plan going ahead that Dewsbury and District Hospital will close by 2016.”
Mr Hunt asked The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP), which advises ministers on proposals for health service change in England, to assess the proposals. They said the changes should go ahead and yesterday Mr Hunt said he agreed with their decision.
He added: “These plans will ensure the best quality treatment for people in Mid-Yorkshire. They were drawn up in consultation with the public by local doctors and nurses — the people best-placed to understand the needs of local patients.
“The independent panel agrees the proposals will improve services for patients so I am accepting their advice.”
Members of Save Dewsbury Hospital and Save Our Local Hospital Services, along with Mr Wood, have campaigned vociferously against the plans.
Mr Wood said: “This is an appalling decision, taken without reference to the facts of the case and driven entirely by financial considerations on the part of the Trust and a wish to privatise the NHS on the part of the Government.
“This is bad enough but in the meantime a dangerous situation is being created for the patients at both Dewsbury and Pinderfields hospitals. In fact, as I have said to both the chief executive of the Trust and health secretary, we are looking at a parallel situation to that in the Mid Staffordshire Trust, where so many people died earlier than they needed to or where their care was woefully inadequate.
“The Government says it wants us all to learn lessons from what happened at Mid Staffordshire but here is an example of where they are colluding with our local hospital trust in actions that fly in the face of everything that we should have learnt.
Dewsbury and Mirfield MP said local politicians should now listen to what the experts have said.
He added: “This independent panel is another group of clinicians who have said this will save lives.
“Let’s be clear, this is an independent panel saying this is a good idea, it is not Jeremy Hunt saying this is a good idea. This is a politician listening to the clinicians and that is important.
“After this, any local politician saying that they know best needs to be able to explain how.
“They are playing politics with peoples lives.”
Mr Reevell also stressed that Kirklees Council has backed the independent panel’s stance.
Member of campaign group Save Dewsbury Hospital, and parliamentary candidate Paula Sherriff (Lab), said: “This is a kick in the face to tens of thousands of local people in Dewsbury.
“At least 33,000 local people, every local councillor in Dewsbury and Batley, the cross-party Kirklees/Wakefield Scrutiny Committee, and the MP for Batley & Spen are all against these plans.
“Add to that hundreds, if not thousands, of experienced NHS clinical staff locally. Many have told me if these plans are realised then lives will be lost.
“This is the wrong plan for residents of Dewsbury. We will continue to fight these plans.”
A joint statement by Jo Webster, chief officer of NHS Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Chris Dowse, chief officer of NHS North Kirklees CCG and Stephen Eames, chief executive of the Mid Yorkshire, read: “We very much welcome the Secretary of State’s decision. This means we can now take forward our plans to reorganise hospital services to significantly improve health outcomes for the people of North Kirklees and Wakefield.
“We will continue to involve local people and their representatives in developing the new service models.
“The reorganisation of hospital services will take place over the next three years and are part of a significant programme of transformation for the local health system, which will lead to more care being available close to people’s homes reducing the need for treatment in hospitals.”
18 months ago the Reporter Series began a campaign to save Dewsbury’s A&E.
‘Don’t let A&E become a casualty’ was a simple message that captured the concerns of many of our readers.
Reporter Series editor Hannah Ridgeway said: “Councillors were right to take their concerns to the highest level and refer the plans to Jeremy Hunt.
“After it had gone to him we have reported on worrying new evidence of the demands being placed on our A&E departments.
“Now time will tell if he has made the right decision.”
Coun Betty Rhodes, Chair of the Wakefield and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, said: “These proposals affect a large number of people in Wakefield and Kirklees so I am obviously disappoint ted that the Independent Review Panel did not consider that they warranted a full review and also that the Secretary of State is following that advice.
“The Joint Health Scrutiny Committee will reflect on the Secretary of State’s response at our next meeting and, in light of his decision, will determine how best to engage with the NHS locally around the implementation of the proposals
“Our priority is – and always has been – to get the best health services we can for the people of Wakefield and Kirklees. We will be working with the Clinical Commissioning Groups and Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust and look forward to further information about how health services will be delivered in the future to meet local needs.”