Finances have largely dictated the reconfiguration of health services in the area following years of overspending.
A key part of problems has been over-reliance on hospital care, with too little provision in the community.
Dewsbury and its surrounding communities will be most affected by controversial changes which will see consultant-led maternity services at the town’s hospital ceasing, while A&E care will be downgraded to no longer deal with serious or life-threatening emergencies as the hospital instead concentrates on planned treatments. Patients needing emergency care will be treated at Wakefield’s Pinderfields Hospital or surrounding units. About 250 beds will be axed in Dewsbury, leaving only 110 by 2017.
A new children’s assessment unit opened early this week at Dewsbury and is among the first signs of changes. It will deal with youngsters who need care for a few hours. In years ahead, those needing an overnight stay will be transferred to Wakefield.
Heckmondwike GP David Kelly, chairman of North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, said more care in the community involved changes many had wanted for a long time.
“We have talked about care closer to home for years but it’s been a lot of talk and not a lot of action,” he said. “What we are trying to do is create an integrated health and social care team that works 24/7 across our practices and community services.”
GP practices would remain the first point of contact with plans to open surgeries on both Saturdays and Sundays later this year to reduce pressures on A&E and walk-in centres.
He added: “We spend a lot of time reacting to crises and health problems. What we need to do is identify patients and proactively manage them by targeting primary and community services.”