We must be clear that what is proposed in the Full Business Case is not just the closure of the A&E but also the bulldozing of the entire HRI site. The CCG and CHFT want to use a second PFI (PFI2) to build a new unit on the Acre Mills site with just 64 beds, little more than two wards, and not the 120 beds as originally proposed and which were consulted on. Over the next 10 years there will be 500 job losses. The unit will be staffed mostly by nurse practitioners. There will be no overnight medic on site, if a doctor is needed this will be accessed via telephone.
Of course, we do not think this is sufficient for an area which covers around 400,000 people. We do not have faith that Calderdale would cope with the increase in usage. We do think that people may die on the Elland bypass.
Referral to Jeremy Hunt
On 21/7 the JHSC made a decision to refer the CCGs and Trusts proposals to Jeremy Hunt, who in turn is obliged to refer it to an Independent Reconfiguration Panel. There are 2 options – the IRP may decide that a desktop review of evidence provided by JHSC is all that is needed. This is tantamount to giving the plans the green light to go ahead. The second option is that the IRP will carry out an in depth investigation – and this is what we are pushing for. This would mean officials visiting the town and we would have a chance to lobby them. The referral to the IRP happened on the 1st September and Hands Off HRI had already formed an ad hoc committee to gather evidence for the IRP to lobby for this in depth review.
Launching a Judicial Review
In the meantime, the campaign held a major public meeting on 31 August, at which Yogi Amin of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors spoke. Yogi has considerable experience of carrying out Judicial Reviews, and he said if we proceeded we wanted a decision which would stop them (The CCGS and Trusts) in their tracks. He said “Looking at the areas of the FBC – the Financial and Economic planning does not stack up. Also that there is a lack of evidence of community based health provision which the CCGs are relying on to deliver their proposal”. Our legal team provided evidence to the JHSC prior to their decision on 21/7, and this may also be used in evidence at judicial review.
Yogi out our chances of success at 60-65% – we feel that this is good. Often, the odds are 50/50 or even worse. The solicitor will narrow it down to 2-3 clear grounds for challenge and of course he must give evidence. As such he asked for people to come forward if they know of any changes by STEALTH to provision. Please TELL US if you find out a ward has been closed or a service has been moved. This is why we must act quickly. There is a danger if we wait too long before making the legal challenge that the judge could decide too much change has taken place and public money spent to be able to intervene.
We also need evidence from people who are current users of the hospital, or who have been within last 12 months. This might be people with a disability or chronic condition. The Lewisham Campaign had a People’s Commission, people giving evidence about how a hospital closure would impact directly on their lives. We would like to be able to do something similar.
Victories in other campaigns
In Lewisham, Dr Louise Irvine & Tony Sullivan who ran that campaign took Mr Hunt to court twice and won. Keep Our Horton General have recently been granted a full hearing into how the public consultation on downgrading their services was run. A spokesman for that campaign said “This result has shown that the courts in our land will work for the people and can hold bodies to account – that Clinical Commissioning Groups cannot run roughshod over the rules”
Through our connections with Health Campaigns Together, a national campaigning group for which Mike Forster, our Chair, is national Vice Chair, we have been able to locate and employ financial and medical experts, who are now looking closely at the plans put forward by the CHFT in their full business case.
Through this same network, we have also made connections with campaigners up and down the country who are also fighting to keep their local services. All eyes are on Huddersfield to see what happens here. We will be launching crowdfunding soon to boost our chances of raising an initial £40,000 which will allow us to proceed to Judicial Review.
As well as our external solicitor and barrister advice, we also have a dedicated Legal Team. If you have any information which you think may be helpful, please do contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org