STRUCTURE: Jeremy Hunt has approved plans to reconfigure hospitals services run by Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust, which were referred to him last year.

Wakefield and Kirklees councils’ health scrutiny joint committee had expressed concerns about proposals, which will downgrade accident and emergency units at Pontefract and Dewsbury hospitals, with Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield serving patients with more serious needs.

However, Mr Hunt said in a statement this week: “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.”

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which advises the health secretary, last month recommended that the plans continue. Mr Hunt said: “I am accepting their advice.”

Trust chief executive Stephen Eames said: “We very much welcome the secretary of state’s decision. This means we can now take forward our plans to reorganise hospital services and improve them for people in North Kirklees and Wakefield.

“I want to reaffirm what I’ve said all along that we are not planning to close Dewsbury and District Hospital. I believe these changes will secure its future.”

David Kelly, chair of North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “The plans… are essential for us to deliver the best quality healthcare across our area. 

“Under these plans our most seriously ill patients will receive the most specialist treatment, in a way that is beyond what we can currently provide at our local hospital.”

Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group chair Phil Earnshaw said: “We believe that these changes will strengthen the hospital services provided to local people.”

The plans entail centralising emergency and complex surgery at Pinderfield Hospital in Wakefield; and Dewsbury and District and Pontefract hospitals largely focussing on planned care. Dewsbury and Pontefract would have small emergency departments, with consultant cover during the day, but not at night, making more use of advanced nurse practitioners. Serious cases would go to Pinderfields.

Inpatient children’s care would be centralised at Pinderfields in Wakefield - currently some inpatient paediatrics is also provided at Dewsbury Hospital. Consultant led maternity would be removed from Dewsbury, with a midwife-led unit retained, and consultant-led maternity only available at Pinderfields.

In a referral letter to the health secretary last year, scrutiny committee chair Betty Rhodes said: “There still remains sufficient doubt to provide the necessary assurance and confidence that the proposals are in the best interests of the local population.”