A controversial shake-up of hospital services will go before a full judicial review after NHS campaigners won the right to pursue a legal challenge.
Hopes were raised that the changes to services in Calderdale and Huddersfield could be halted after a hearing at the High Court in Leeds yesterday.
The plan would see Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) knocked down and replaced with a smaller site.
A&E services would be closed at Huddersfield and centralised in Halifax under the proposals, which have raised safety fears over longer journey times.
There were cheers in court as His Honour Judge Gosnell ruled in favour of a judicial review on five out of eight grounds put forward by the campaigners.
Jenni Richards QC, acting on their behalf, argued that a Full Business Case report drawn up by Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust was flawed and did not properly take into account the safety concerns raised during a public consultation. Among the fears raised were extended journey times to A&E and the welfare of children being transferred between hospitals.
Referring to travel times, Ms Richards said: “There is no reference to it in the Full Business Case.”
Ms Richards also said the number of beds at the proposed new hospital in Huddersfield had been reduced from 120 to 64. She told the court: “That was nearly a 50 per cent reduction from 120.”
The hospital trust argued that the changes are in the best interests of patients and the way services are currently organised is not sustainable.
Jeremy Hyam QC, for the trust, said a judicial review was not necessary because the proposals had been subject to an independent review, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt expected to make a final decision.
He said: “Delay in this case caused by judicial review pushing back the approval process is not in the best interests of the local population.”
Mr Hyam said that a travel analysis had been carried out by Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which control the local health budget.
But the travel concerns had not been addressed in the hospital trust’s business case, the court heard.
Delivering his ruling, Judge Gosnell said: “It doesn’t seem to me that this was considered fully, or indeed significantly, in the business case at all.”
The ruling reverses an earlier decision to refuse a full judicial review and means a judge will decide on the legality of the decision-making behind the hospital changes.
Speaking after the hearing Cristina George, of action group Hands off HRI, said: “I’m delighted. I’m thrilled. I think it’s the beginning of a journey, but at least there’s some recognition that what’s been done has not been done it the right way and there’s a case to answer. My big argument has always been about there being insufficient community-based care to pick up the slack.”
Yogi Amin, a partner at Irwin Mitchell, the law firm representing the campaign group, said: “We are pleased that we will now be able to present our case in a full judicial review hearing.
“The campaign has focused on saving local NHS hospital services.
“Our clients believe that the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust has produced a flawed business case, which does not present all the necessary evidence or follow the government guidelines.”