Hundreds expected at rally in support of A&E unit

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Hundreds of demonstrators are expected at a rally tomorrow to support a hospital’s accident and emergency department which is facing the axe.

Halifax MP Linda Riordan has called for residents to “come out in force” in protest at the possible closure of the unit at Calderdale Royal Hospital.

Organisers say they are expecting hundreds of people to pack into North Bridge Leisure Centre to send a clear message to health bosses and the Government.

Health chiefs last month outlined the radical shake-up of hospital and community services across Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield, which would save £50m a year, and which could result in the end of 24-hour A&E services at either Huddersfield Royal Infirmary or Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.

Under the proposals, acute and emergency services could be based on one specialist hospital site and planned and elective care on a second specialist planned care hospital site.

A decision has yet to be made on the allocation of services but Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has said it would prefer the main acute hospital to be in Huddersfield and to use Calderdale Royal for routine or planned operations with a minor injuries unit.

The blueprint envisions providing most of patients’ care and support in the community and moving current hospital-based services closer to where people live. Patients would also be supported by two specialist community centres – Todmorden Health Centre in Calderdale and Holme Valley Memorial Hospital in Kirklees.

Mrs Riordan said: “Quite simply, there is anger, dismay and disgust at the plan to axe our A&E. I would urge people to come along to the rally. This could be a defining moment in the campaign, making it clear that not dozens, or hundreds, but thousands of people are against this decision.

“In all my time, I have never known such public anger at a decision. I will be making it clear that health policy should be about saving lives, not money. We have a hospital to be proud of in Halifax and tomorrow we will be making it clear what we think of this closure proposal.”

More than 7,000 people signed an online petition objecting to any closure of Calderdale’s A&E.

Martin Carter, a spokesman for the Strategic Review, which is behind the shake-up, said: “We are hearing loud and clear what people in Calderdale and beyond think about changes to the way A&E services are provided. We are at the beginning of a long process and no decisions have been made.”

He said if the proposals are approved, no hospital would lose all its emergency care, as a minor injuries unit would remain – with life-threatening and complex cases taken to a specialist centre.

“We understand why people are focusing on A&E – it is highly emotive – but people need to understand this is the biggest shake-up of services in an area of 450,000 people and there is a lot more to it.”