Bosses to consult on major hospitals shake-up

Officials meet at Ossett Town Hall over the future of hospital services in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury. Picture by Simon Hulme
Officials meet at Ossett Town Hall over the future of hospital services in Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury. Picture by Simon Hulme
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CONTROVERSIAL plans for a shake-up of NHS services covering more than 500,000 people in the region will be put to the public despite major opposition to proposals by health chiefs.

A&E services face being downgraded at both Dewsbury and Pontefract hospitals under a reconfiguration of care which would also see Dewsbury’s hospital lose consultant-led maternity care.

Both hospitals would become centres for planned care, with emergency and unplanned treatment centred at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.

The potential loss of key hospital services has already triggered a furious outcry but at a meeting of health chiefs in Ossett yesterday concerns were also expressed over progress developing GP and community services in the area which are a crucial part of the plans to shift care out of hospitals.

NHS Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield District cluster board unanimously approved an outline business case for changes to be put to a three-month public consultation from March 1.

Latest figures show 75,000 people use A&E services in Dewsbury each year. Under the changes, 15,000 patients who arrive by ambulance would instead be transfered directly to Pinderfields or other neighbouring hospitals. Staff in a revamped emergency care unit open 24 hours a day would continue to deal with 60,000 remaining patients.

Of around 2,600 births carried out in Dewsbury each year, officials calculate some 500 would take place in a new midwife-led unit in the town, with higher-risk deliveries dealt with mainly at Pinderfields.

Managers from the financially-stricken Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust told the meeting the plans were vital to ensure hospital services across the district were clinically sustainable into the future, while they would also save £10m a year.

They revealed the trust was due to end the 12 months to March with an underlying deficit of £30m and would not return to the black until 2016-17.

The plans would need £38m in public investment for building work, mainly at Pinderfields, to create 50 extra beds, although 200 beds – 18 per cent of the trust’s total number – would be lost overall under the proposals to shift care into the community.

Full A&E services were axed at Pontefract in November 2011 and would not return under the 
plans.

Dewsbury’s hospital would take on a major role carrying out planned operations, as emergency care was centred at Pinderfields. Managers say the separation would reduce risk of cancellation and infections and cut lengths of stay in hospital, with more work being carried out on Saturdays and improved weekend care.

But the meeting heard doubts community services would be able to cope with a surge in demand as care was shifted from hospitals.

Retired Barnsley hospital surgeon Paul Miller told officials GPs had to “step up”.

“There is no care in the community,” he said. “Hospital wards have been closed prior to establishing care in the community.”

GP David Kelly, shadow chairman of North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, said 
some practices offered extended opening hours but admitted conversations about expanding 
services were yet to get “fully going” with GPs.

He said family doctors were concerned about changes at Dewsbury’s hospital, particularly to emergency care, but they recognised the need for change.

Mid Yorkshire interim chief executive Stephen Eames later welcomed the decision to take the plans forward, claiming “great progress” had been made in services in the last year.

“However, if we are to step up to the next level, with services that are clinically safe and financially viable into the foreseeable future, then we need to make radical changes based on sound clinical evidence,” he added.