MP blasts plan to cut back 999 care at hospitals to save money

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HEALTH chiefs are set to back plans which would see A&E services at two Yorkshire hospitals downgraded.

Officials meeting tomorrow are being asked to support proposals which will end full consultant-led A&E services at Dewsbury and Pontefract hospitals.

Last night Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper branded plans for casualty care at her local hospital a “disgrace”.

They are part of a wholesale reconfiguration of hospital services provided by the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is expected to be £26m in debt at the end of the financial year.

Under the moves, Pinderfields Hospital at Wakefield will become a centralised centre for consultant-led emergency care.

The proposals would mean A&E departments at the trust’s hospitals in Pontefract and Dewsbury would only provide urgent care for minor injuries.

Full maternity care will also be axed to be replaced by a midwife-led unit at Dewsbury’s hospital, which will become a centre for rehabilitation care.

At a meeting open to the public at Ossett Town Hall at 10am tomorrow, NHS Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield District cluster board will decide whether the proposal should proceed to a full public consultation in March.

But Ms Cooper, Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, said: “These proposals are a disgrace. They are ignoring the thousands of people who backed our campaign for the trust to keep its promise of 24/7 consultant-led A&E at Pontefract.

“Last year they closed Pontefract A&E overnight and we forced them to re-open it with public meetings and petitions. Now they are trying to downgrade Pontefract A&E during the daytime.

“Yet we already know Pinderfields is struggling to cope and sending more patients there is madness. It’s unfair to patients who are waiting too long to be seen and it’s unfair to staff who are already over-stretched.

“Hospital bosses know we won’t accept this plan and we won’t give up the fight for a proper A&E at Pontefract.”

Simon Reevell, Conservative MP for Dewsbury, said: “As far as A&E at Dewsbury is concerned, there are two models. It either stays as it is or the other option is that it stays 24/7 and some of the more acute cases go to Pinderfields or Leeds. The key message is it is a consultation and people need to get involved and look at the details of what is being proposed.

“It is for the trust to convince people if the proposals are correct. It is important for people to look at what is being proposed and listen to what the medics say are the reasons behind it.”

Carole Langrick, the trust’s deputy chief executive, said: “When you are proposing any kind of change, that does raise a level of concern and anxiety.

“People like to keep what they have got, but it is also about understanding and explaining both the future service configuration and how the service will work.”

Meanwhile, a Care Quality Commission report to be published today confirms there have been major improvements at the Mid Yorkshire trust.

The commission branded failings at the trust “completely unacceptable” after inspectors on an unannounced visit last September discovered a catalogue of failings.

Hospital staff turned whistleblowers to alert the commission to the fact patients were being kept on the day surgery unit at Pinderfields for long-term care without the proper resources.

Inspectors found some patients stayed on the unit for more than four days and were only being fed with sandwiches and microwave dinners. They also found patients did not have proper washing facilities and were cleaning themselves using cardboard bowls.

The commission visited again in November and noted significant improvements. Patients on the short-stay surgical unit have the same choice and standard of food as other wards at the hospital and shower units have been installed.

The trust’s director of quality Karen Harper said: “We are very pleased with the results from the report. It is complimentary about the service we provide in many areas.”