THE DEBATE over the future of hospitals in Huddersfield and Halifax needs to be part of a much wider plan to improve the health of West Yorkshire residents, according to a senior official.
Richard Parry, Kirklees Council’s director of public health, has called for a major overhaul of the way healthcare is delivered in the area.
In a new report, Mr Parry says preventing illness, GP services and community care need to be considered alongside the discussion over where hospitals are located and the services they provide.
The report has been produced for a special Kirklees Council meeting next Wednesday when councillors will discuss the controversial plans to change hospital provision for the area.
The proposals would see Huddersfield lose its accident and emergency services which would move to Halifax with Huddersfield Royal Infirmary replaced with a smaller hospital.
A vociferous campaign, backed by local MPs, is seeking to preserve accident and emergency care in Huddersfield.
In his report, Mr Parry said the current proposals “appear to be plans for organisations rather than for the place of Kirklees” and urges councillors to take a more fundamental look at the health needs of local people.
Highlighting the way new technology is changing the way people access healthcare, Mr Parry warns that decisions need to be taken that stand the test of time.
He suggests that the area is in danger of reorganising services in a way that will be outdated in five years.
As an example it points to how most outpatients appointments are still delivered from hospitals when in future these are more likely to be offered closer to home or even using video technology.
Acknowledging that access to emergency services is the most contentious issue, Mr Parry calls for “a range of solutions” for Kirklees that includes minor injuries units and community first responders who can help stabilise casualties quicker after an accident has happened before they are transported to hospital.
The report suggests more should be done to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles which could save 1,000 people from dying from preventable illnesses.
It also calls for more attention to be paid to the importance of family doctors in the local health system.
Mr Parry warns that more GPs are leaving the profession than entering it but they are crucial to stopping more people ending up in hospital.
A public consultation is due to be launched next week on the shake-up in local hospital provision,
The proposals are designed to save the NHS £280m by 2022 and critics suggest the overhaul is being driven by the need to service the private finance deal which funded the rebuilding of Calderdale Royal Hospital that will eventually cost more than £700m.
If they go ahead, Calderdale Royal Hospital would almost double in size with Huddersfield Royal Infirmary replaced by a smaller unit with an “urgent care centre” rather than full accident and emergency services.