Calderdale and Huddersfield hospital plan could be referred to Jeremy Hunt

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A council health watchdog is being urged to reject controversial changes to hospital services after new details emerged.

Councillors could refer plans to expand Calderdale Royal Hospital and downgrade Huddersfield Royal Infirmary to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Calderdale would become the main accident and emergency centre for the two districts under the scheme, which has raised fears that longer journeys to hospital could put patients at risk.

Health campaigners are also furious after learning that the new Huddersfield hospital would only have 64 beds after NHS bosses first said it would be a 120-bed site.

Calderdale and Kirklees joint health scrutiny committee will meet on Friday to decide whether safety concerns have been addressed.

A spokesman for Hands of Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI) said: “We have to impress upon every councillor that they now have a duty to reject the CCG proposal.”

A report to Friday’s meeting said changes at the hospitals would see a reduction in the workforce of almost 480 roles over ten years.

It has also emerged that hospital bosses have not provided the scrutiny committee with a Full Business Case (FBC) report on the plans because it is “commercially sensitive”.

Councillors expected the full document ahead of Friday’s meeting, but only extracts were provided.

Coun Liz Smaje, joint chairwoman of the committee, said: “All committee members fully understand the concerns of residents and campaigners and we feel it is important that the meeting goes ahead in public on the day that is planned in order to provide the committee with the opportunity to review the information and to assess whether or not it addresses our concerns.”

Owen Williams, chief executive of Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said the FBC was still in draft form.

He said: “Once it’s been through the Trust’s internal governance and shared with our regulators, we’ll look to publicly share as much of the document as we can, subject to matters which might be assessed as commercial in confidence.”

Health campaigners were further angered when it emerged that a controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal would be used to pay for the new hospital in Huddersfield.

PFI deals have been criticised because they involve years of costly repayments to private companies.

Calderdale NHS campaigner Jenny Shepherd said: “We all know from experience that PFI is a rotten deal for the public.”

Fears have also been raised that the cash-strapped hospital trust could be plunged further into the red if there is any delay to the changes going ahead.

The trust was planning to be £15.9m in deficit at the end of the year.

But any delay could worsen this because of the cost of running two hospitals with full A&E departments.

A report to the last trust board meeting said: “Delays in being able to reconfigure services will impact on the trust’s financial recovery plan.”