Tempers became frayed at a meeting in Cleckheaton to discuss the future of health services in North Kirklees.
Spen Valley Area Committee met in Cleckheaton town hall on Tuesday, when members of the public voiced their concerns over the future of services at Dewsbury and District Hospital.
Plans for changes to services at Dewsbury were released last August, with a choice of two options – both of which involved down-grading Dewsbury A&E and losing the current consultant-led maternity services.
Dr David Kelly, chairman of North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group, attended the meeting, where he outlined plans for the public consultation which is taking place until the summer, and defended the decision to move specialisms such as consultant-led maternity units to Pinderfields.
He said: “There has been a reduction in the number of training doctors in a number of specialisms, and it just won’t work to continue like this.
“Dewsbury hospital is already using lots of agency staff, and the workforce issue drives us towards moving specialisms to one site.”
Member of the public Mike Duncan told Dr Kelly: “It seems like the changes are a matter of cost reduction, and we are suffering as a result – it feels as if Dewsbury is being robbed to service the debts at Pinderfields.”
Dr Kelly replied: “All three hospitals in the Mid-Yorkshire Trust (Pinderfields, Dewsbury and District and Pontefract) are losing money every day, and none of them are financially sustainable. The Mid Yorkshire Trust has made a pledge to get financially balanced by 2016.
“But even if we had an endless pot of money, we would still be making these changes – it is better to have specialised services at one site rather than to spread them about.”
Heckmondwike councillor David Sheard added: “This sort of thing is going on all around the country, and it would be a waste of the consultation for us to just sit here and say ‘we don’t want any changes’ – changes are going to happen, and if we don’t find something we agree on, we are in danger of being put to one side.”
Another woman spoke of her concern at the cohesion between hospitals within the Trust.
She said: “Joined-up services between Dewsbury and Wakefield are appalling – money is being wasted and patients are being traumatised.”
Dr Kelly said: “We are working with people to make sure that they do talk to people each other, and I am convinced that we will get somewhere with that, and we want to make sure that we sort it by the time these changes take place.”
The consultation on the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals Trust runs until the summer, before the trust submits its full business case in July.
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