Health secretary Matt Hancock urged to visit Yorkshire hospitals

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The new Secretary of State of Health has been urged to visit hospitals in West Yorkshire as revised plans for a controversial shake-up of A&E services are drawn up.

Matt Hancock, who took over as Tory Health Secretary from Jeremy Hunt, has been asked to meet NHS staff in Kirklees by the Dewsbury MP and shadow health minister Paula Sherriff.

Before leaving the job, Mr Hunt vetoed plans to downgrade Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) and centralise A&E services in Halifax.

The scheme, which sparked a huge public backlash, would have seen Huddersfield’s existing 400-bed infirmary knocked down and replaced with a 64-bed hospital.

Ms Sherriff has claimed NHS services in Kirklees are being “downgraded” after a previous reorganisation at Dewsbury and Pinderfields hospitals.

Last November, Jeremy Hunt agreed to visit Dewsbury and Huddersfield after first being invited a year earlier by Ms Sherriff.

Ms Sherriff said: “With decisions on the future of HRI imminent, and mounting evidence that our local NHS cannot safely achieve nationally imposed targets, it is imperative that Mr Hancock hears from those staff, patients and health campaigners who have deep concerns over both the recent downgrades at Dewsbury and impending changes at Huddersfield.”

The plan for Huddersfield and Calderdale hospitals was sent back to the drawing board by Mr Hunt in May.

At the time Mr Hunt said it was “not in the interests of the people of Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield”.

The plan, which was also challenged in court by NHS campaigners, was referred to Mr Hunt by Calderdale and Huddersfield joint health scrutiny committee and reviewed by the Government’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

The proposals involved an expansion of Calderdale Royal Hospital, more planned procedures being carried out at a new facility in Huddersfield and more services being offered outside of hospitals.

The new Huddersfield hospital was originally planned to have 120 beds, but that was reduced to 64.

In a letter to Mr Hancock, Ms Sherriff said: “Ultimately, I remain concerned that the combined impact of changes across the area on response times and capacity for people to travel further to reach hospital services would compromise patient safety.”