• Council committee refers hospital reconfiguration plans to health secretary
  • CCGs plan to close A&E in Huddersfield and centralise emergency services at Calderdale Royal Infirmary in Halifax

Controversial plans to close an A&E department and centralise emergency services in a neighbouring town have been referred to Jeremy Hunt for a final decision.

Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield clinical commissioning groups are drawing up a full business case about the future of emergency and community services in Huddersfield and Halifax.

The plans are to close the accident and emergency at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and create a single emergency care centre at Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax.

This would involve disposing of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and building an urgent care centre on the neighbouring Acre Mill site.

It would make Huddersfield one of the largest towns in the UK without an A&E department.

The proposals went out to consultation last year and the CCGs agreed in October to have a full business case prepared on the reconfiguration. They will make their final decisions after this is presented to their governing bodies.

However, members of the Calderdale and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee raised “significant concerns” about the plans and on Friday referred the proposals to the health secretary.

The committee said this was because:

  • it was not satisfied with the adequacy of content of the consultation with the joint committee;
  • amended proposals were not consistent with the proposals originally consulted on by the CCGs in 2016; and
  • it considered that the proposals would not be in the interests of the people of Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield, nor in the interests of the health service in the area.

In a statement, the committee said: “The joint committee has accepted that maintaining the status quo is not an option and understands the CCGs’ clinical and quality case for change.

“The joint committee also accepts that delivering services across two sites has contributed, in part, to the workforce challenges particularly in recruiting to key specialist areas at senior levels.

“However, the joint committee has serious concerns about some of the consequences of reconfiguring hospital services in this way.”

Mr Hunt will now decide whether to uphold the CCGs’ decision or overturn it.

The pre-consultation business case said the preferred option will require about £490m of external funding until 2021-22, including loans for the capital requirement, non-recurrent reconfiguration costs and non-recurrent deficit support funding.

The CCGs’ proposals also included creating a paediatric emergency care centre in Halifax, building a 120 bed elective care hospital in Huddersfield, and strengthening community and maternity services.

Neil Smurthwaite, deputy chief officer of Calderdale CCG, and Greater Huddersfield CCG chief officer Carol McKenna said they believed the plans were the “best way to save more lives and improve results for patients”.

A joint statement said: “We now await the secretary of state’s decision. However, we are confident that our proposals are crucial to the long term sustainability of local services and we will continue to plan for change pending the outcome of the referral process.”

The business case is being prepared by Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust, which runs both hospitals.

HSJ understands it will go through the trust’s governance processes this month and then be submitted to NHS Improvement, before going to the CCGs’ governing bodies later this year.

The CCG will be looking at the business case to see if it is in line with the proposals that went to consultation, if it is affordable and if it improves the system’s sustainability.