On Thursday 9th August, three separate submissions were presented to the Secretary of State for Health in response to the original IRP referral three months ago. At the time Jeremy Hunt signalled that the existing business plan was flawed and expected the NHS regulators (NHS Improvement [NHSI] and NHS England [NHSE]) to work with local providers and stakeholders to come up with a better plan. Their proposal was submitted late on Thursday night. The regulators have failed to attend or acknowledge the meetings of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, the body which referred the whole issue to the Secretary of State. They appear to have just endorsed the CCG and Trusts’ new proposal without considering any other ideas.
The CCG and Trust Proposals
The CCG and Trusts’ plans are a half baked reworking of the original business case. They claim to be maintaining two A & E’s but in reality, the Huddersfield Centre will be self referring; all emergencies will be redirected to Halifax and all acute and emergency care will be dealt with at Halifax. Although they now recognise that PFI money is now no longer appropriate and expect more capital funding, they are in reality proposing an Accident Centre at Huddersfield with all emergencies redirected to Halifax. This is not enough and our campaign group will oppose them all the way. The proposal is unclear about the future of the existing hospital at HRI but talks about using existing buildings and upgrading their infrastructure. We require an immediate assurance that the hospital building will be maintained and of course we require a fully operating hospital with all services. In reality the CCG and Trusts have laboured for 3 months and produced a warmed through version of their failed business case. This will strengthen our legal case if it becomes necessary.
NHSI and NHSE have merely endorsed the CCG/Trust proposal and have undertaken no work of their own. This is a derogation of their responsibilities. The CCG/Trust has demonstrated they have little or no idea how to put together a plan which will meet our health needs, but they have decided to take the CCG/Trusts’ plans at face value. This is also unacceptable.
The Calderdale Proposal
Calderdale Council has submitted its own proposal in isolation from their Kirklees council colleagues but they have clearly had prior sight of the Trust/CCG plan. As such they have chosen to endorse its findings which is disappointing as Calderdale councillors have sat on the Joint Health Scrutiny Committees. They see some advantage to maintaining full hospital services at Calderdale but this will be at the expense of Huddersfield and will only increase demand on Calderdale Hospital which is already overstretched. Our campaign has always maintained that both towns require full hospital services to meet all our health needs and this will remain the case. We are therefore disappointed with their submission.
The Kirklees Proposal
Kirklees Council held a press conference to launch their report on 9th August. They are proposing a new hospital with full A & E services to serve all of Kirklees to be built with capital funding partly financed by Council borrowing. If approved by the Secretary of State, the Council has enhanced powers to prudentially borrow large amounts of capital funding. This is a more interesting alternative model which could meet local health needs but requires a lot more detailed consideration e.g. where would such a hospital be located; how would it be staffed; which local Trust would oversee it; how would local health services be maintained whilst the new building was constructed; what consultation do they suggest. This is the first time any statutory body has proposed an alternative model to the Final Business Case and does require serious consideration. We are disappointed it has taken the Council two and a half years to develop such a model but it has the potential to better meet local health needs dependent on a lot further detail. We trust the Council has the authority and staying power to see this through properly. Since the Council continues to make huge cuts to services, have they got the resources to see this through?
The Next Steps
The Secretary of State now has to consider all these reports and make his recommendation. This is a process which cannot be rushed as too much is at stake. We demand that Mr Hancock come up to the area himself to listen to and meet local health professionals, patients and local people. In the meantime we will consult our legal team and assess what impact these developments have on our ongoing legal challenge. If Mr Hancock rubber stamps the CCG/Trust proposal, we will have no option but to take the legal option further.
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