Judicial Review to commence on 13th October 2017
On Friday 6th October, the solicitors acting for Hands Off HRI (Irwin Mitchell) issued the first stage in legal proceedings against Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust (“The Trust”) informing them they will be obliged to account for their plans through a full judicial review. The Trust has appointed its own solicitors, Capsticks ( a London based firm), to formally respond and the full Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will also be asked to approve the plans at its meeting on 11th October.
The grounds for the legal challenge are well known but will be as follows:
· The Trust has failed to take into account the product and outcome of their consultation where it was clearly evident there was a much greater than average participation in the consultation and a significant majority opposed the plans for reconfiguration.
· The Trust has downgraded its original plan for HRI by changing the remaining bed capacity from 120 to 64 beds which the local GP’s body (the Local Medical Committee, LMC) said “beggars belief”. Huddersfield has higher than average deprivation, a complex and ageing population and a larger geographical spread of patients than comparable areas, none of which has been considered
· The Trust will not be providing 24 hour cover by a Doctor in the replacement Urgent Care Centre
· The Trust has failed to take into account the concerns raised by the LMC which remains “appalled that the plans have reached the level of detail without any significant input or discussion with ourselves” and go on to say that “Primary care nationally and locally is in crisis and these plans will only add to that. We feel the safety of the people of Huddersfield and Kirklees will be compromised both due to the loss of the facilities on the HRI site and lack of extra provision in primary care”.
· The Trust’s plans lack financial sustainability and by adding to its already existing debt burden from the Calderdale PFI by proposing another PFI debt plan, it will exacerbate these difficulties. There is no evidence in the Trust’s plans which demonstrate the debt burden will not rise, merely assertions and assumptions
· The Trust has failed to produce evidence and/or information that suitable alternative community provision and treatment will be provided and therefore is not complaint with NHS England’s specific guidance. The LMC consider the plans to be “unrealistic and unsafe.”
· The Trust has failed to take into account the huge travel burden imposed on the population by transferring hospital and A & E cover. Over two thirds of the population live closer to HRI then Calderdale hospital and the Trust’s plans will leave the entire Kirklees population with no emergency NHS cover.
In addition, the Trust has also failed to take into account the increasing pressure on bed capacity and proposed closures in nearby Dewsbury and Barnsley NHS facilities; the rise in demand for mental health provision; the problem people with communication difficulties face in using the 111 Service; the needs of the most deprived sections of the population; the current recruitment crisis for specialist and GP services.
A spokesperson for Hands Off HRI explained further what the Trust must now do to avoid a full legal challenge:
“The Trust has been informed they must withdraw their Full Business Case and halt any implementation of their plans , including any ‘stealth changes’ which they have already tried to implement. We have asked for more documentation which might support their plans which is currently not in the public domain. We have also offered to go into any form of dispute resolution which they may wish to consider. Otherwise if we do not receive these assurances by Friday 13th October, we will proceed to full litigation. We will also pass on the same message to the CCG on 11th October at its meeting in the Textile Centre, Huddersfield.
It should be noted that the referral by Joint Health Scrutiny to the Secretary of State is not considered as a form of alternative dispute resolution
The Trust needs to be fully aware that we have the full backing of the people of Huddersfield and beyond. We continue to receive messages of support from all over the country and indeed the world. We will take this whole matter to the highest court in the land if we have to; this is a matter of life and death for our community as the LMC has outlined. We urge the Trust to see sense and not to waste any more of the publics’ money by hiring expensive London solicitors to fight their case. The Trust still has time to pull back from this disgraceful proposal.”