Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Hands Off HRI Issue an Ultimatum to NHS Trust

By James Whittaker 

The Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust has been told by Hands Off HRI campaigners to halt its plans or face legal challenge.  

The Trust, along with the Clinical Commissioning Group, has been planning to downgrade Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and relocate A&E services to Calderdale since January 2016. 

Yet those plans must now be scrapped by the 13th of October if the Trust wants to avoid a Juridicial Review. Furthermore, the Trust must halt its "stealth changes" which have attempted to pre-empt the legal and consultation process to make the downgrade and relocation a forgone conclusion. 

In the spirit of accountability, Hands Off HRI have also demanded the Trust and CCG publicly release documents "which might support their plans". 

Solicitors working on behalf of Hands Off HRI believe they have good legal grounds for the Juridicial Review since the Trust has failed to be accountable to the needs and safety of patients.

Hands Off HRI argue that the consultation process, during which the public made clear their strong opposition to the plans, has been overlooked by the Trust. 

Likewise, Huddersfield's social deprivation and complex demographics a university town which has an ageing population spread over a wide geographic area are not reflected in the plans. The plans fail to account for the travel burden imposed on patients who live much closer to HRI than to Calderdale who will all but lose emergency cover altogether. 

Drawing on the advice of medical professionals, Hands Off HRI also criticised the planned reduction in bed capacity at HRI. Similarly, the Urgent Care Centre, which is to replace the A&E, will not have doctors on hand on a 24/7 basis. 

The plans have also been strongly criticised by the local GP body, the Local Medical Committee, as "unrealistic and unsafe". The LMC stated that they were "appalled that the plans have reached the level of detail without any significant input from ourselves". 

The financial viability of the plans has been brought into question too. The Trust and the CCG proposed  paying for the changes by using another Private Finance Initiative. This is despite the fact that the PFI contract for the construction of Calderdale hospital went three times over budget and continues to burden the Trust with debt.

Campaigners also argue that the plans fail to account for increasing pressure which will be placed upon hospital facilities in Barnsley and Dewsbury. This is especially pertinent given the downgrade of Dewsbury hospital and A&E. 

The general state of the NHS with a lack of proper provision for mental health services and a failure to recruit enough doctors and nurses were also offered as further factors which have gone unacknowledged by the Trust. 

In response to Hands off HRI's legal ultimatum, the NHS Trust have appointed Capsticks, a London law firm, who are expected to formally offer a reply. 

A spokesperson for the campaign told the Trust to "see sense and not waste anymore of the public's money by hiring expensive London lawyers to fight their case". 

Hands Off HRI reiterated that the Trust lacks public support for the plans: 

"We will take this to the highest court in the land if we have to; this is a matter of life and death for our community..." 

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