A controversial shake-up of NHS services which will see more patients treated at Pinderfields Hospital has been given the go-ahead by the secretary of state for health.
Jeremy Hunt has decided a centralisation of services at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust can go ahead despite fears people will have too far to travel for treatment and Pinderfields will struggle to cope with more patients.
Pinderfields will become the Trust’s main A&E department, with critically-ill and injured patients transferred there from Dewsbury, as part of a reorganisation over the next three years.
Dewsbury’s A&E will be downgraded to an urgent care centre treating minor ailments. Dewsbury will also lose its consultant-led maternity unit as complex births are transferred to Pinderfields.
The plan was referred to Mr Hunt by the Wakefield and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee last October over fears it was not in the best interests of patients.
Yesterday Mr Hunt said he agreed with the findings of an independent panel which recommended the changes should go ahead.
Mr Hunt said: “These plans will ensure the best quality treatment for people in Mid Yorkshire.
“They were drawn up in consultation with the public by local doctors and nurses, the people best placed to understand the needs of local patients.”
Mid Yorkshire said the re-organisation would cost around £23m and reduce the overall number of beds at the Trust by around 170.
The joint scrutiny committee said there was not enough information on plans to treat more patients in the community to reduce pressure on hospitals when it referred the plan to Mr Hunt last year.
Coun Betty Rhodes, chairwoman of the joint scrutiny committee, said yesterday: “These proposals affect a large number of people in Wakefield and Kirklees so I am obviously disappointed that the Independent Review Panel did not consider that they warranted a full review and also that the Secretary of State is following that advice.”
Last month fears were raised the plan could heap too much pressure on Pinderfields after it emerged that the busy hospital was repeatedly diverting ambulances to Dewsbury when it was full up.
The Express revealed that ambulances were diverted to Dewsbury for up to 10 hours at a time on more than 140 occasions in a two-year period because of “extreme pressure” on Pinderfields.
But Mid Yorkshire said plans to centralise A&E treatment at Pinderfields would make care safer.
The Trust, which is around £20m in deficit, has also argued that the re-organisation will secure its financial future.
Mid Yorkshire said in a statement: “We very much welcome the secretary of state’s decision. This means we can now take forward our plans to reorganise hospital services to significantly improve health outcomes for the people of North Kirklees and Wakefield.”
But Batley and Spen MP Mike Wood said: “This is an appalling decision, taken without reference to the facts of the case and driven entirely by financial considerations on the part of the Trust and a wish to privatise the NHS on the part of the government.”