When the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust began to talk about changes to Dewsbury and District Hospital, I asked them to explain exactly what was being suggested and exactly what effect it might have.
The consultation will start in January and one of the options put forward will be for Dewsbury’s A&E to change from what is called ‘Type 1’ to ‘Type 3’. Whilst A&E would still be open 24/7, I wanted to know what services would change and, based on previous years, how many people were likely to have to be treated elsewhere.
That information has now arrived and it does not make good reading. A Type 3 centre treats things like minor burns and scalds, sprains and strains and some broken bones. To me that sounds more like ‘accident’ than ‘accident and emergency’.
In the year up to June 2012 about 80,000 people attended at the A&E at Dewsbury. If it had been a Type 3 centre, more than 30,000 of those people would have had to go elsewhere.
I do not regard that level of cover and that drop in capacity as in any way appropriate and I have made that point personally to the chief executive of the Trust.
A large urban area such as Dewsbury and Batley cannot be asked to rely on hospital A&E provision that would be unable to help some four out of 10 of those local people needing urgent treatment. This is nothing to do with politics, it is just straightforward common sense.
I realise that the Trust is losing £100,000 per day but if this level of reduction in provision is in any way about cost cutting it is time to ask whether the Trust in its present form can be saved or whether we have to face up to the fact that historic debt levels are simply too much for it to cope with.
‘The Trust’ is not the same as ‘the hospital’ and the Trust must not run down hospital services to try and save itself. If the Trust cannot continue it should say so and leave services as they are until the Department of Health steps in as it has done in similar circumstances in London.
These proposals have been published way ahead of the planned consultation so that everyone has the opportunity to think about them and to think about how to respond. We are entitled to expect an honest and fair consultation process that listens to the voices of the tens of thousands of local people who will oppose this move.
The 30,000 people who were treated for serious injuries at Dewsbury’s A&E in the last 12 months are just some of those who deserve an A&E department that deals with more than wasp stings and sprained ankles.
Just because the consultation hasn’t started does not mean that the Trust shouldn’t start to listen.