Health bosses have approved controversial plans to centralise hospital services in Halifax and Huddersfield.
To shouts of “shame” from campaigners, a meeting of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) for Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield unanimously agreed the move yesterday.
The shake-up will mean A&E care would only be provided at Calderdale Royal Hospital and Huddersfield Royal Infirmary will be rebuilt and downgraded to an urgent care centre.
The hospital in Halifax will house an emergency department for adults and children and will be expanded by up to 300 beds.
A joint meeting of the two CCGs decided to go ahead to the next stage of proposals, which will see more details being decided, including where the £291m of funding needed will come from.
Before the decision was taken at the Cedar Court Hotel at Ainley Top, placard-waving protesters outside chanted “Hands Off HRI”.
As members of the governing bodies decided on the proposals in the fractious meeting, angry audience members shouted “shame”, “you are a disgrace” and “people’s lives are going to be in your hands”.
Health bosses say the shake-up will tackle a £280m funding gap and that it will be safer to provide emergency care at a single A&E, as well as quicker access to X-rays and scans.
Under the plans, the 400-bed Huddersfield Royal Infirmary would be replaced with a smaller 120-bed hospital at Acre Mills, where more planned procedures would be carried out. The hospital’s A&E would be replaced by an Urgent Care Centre.
All A&E care for adults and children will be provided at Calderdale Royal Hospital.
Jen Mulcahy, programme manager for the proposals, told the meeting: “No change is not an option. We cannot remain as we are.”
But campaigners are demanding that both A&E departments stay open, saying longer journeys to hospital would risk the safety of patients.
The decision was made despite 64 per cent of people who responded to a public consultation saying they disagreed with the plans.
After the meeting, Dewsbury and Mirfield Labour MP Paula Sheriff said she was “devastated”.
“We will continue to fight, we have to,” she said.
“I will join other MPs in the area to fight against this proposal that I believe will cost lives.
“I am not scaremongering - I know what happens when they take services away.”
Mike Foster, chairman of campaign group Hands Off HRI, said campaigners had expected the decision.
“They have not listened to public interest.
“This is completely financially driven but they have got a long, long way to go.”
He said they were considering possible legal action in future.
Councillors on a joint scrutiny committee also have the power to ask Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to intervene.
Leader of the Council and the Chair of the Health and Wellbeing Board, Coun Tim Swift said: “I was clear when the Health and Wellbeing Board considered these proposals in June that – just as councils are required to set a legal budget and take difficult decisions to reduce expenditure – we recognise the financial challenges that the NHS faces, and we accept that they have to work within nationally determined financial constraints.
“We established the People’s Commission to examine the plans for changing health services in Calderdale and we’re pleased that the CCG proposals substantially reflect the Commission’s 15 recommendations.
“Following the decision of Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield CCGs to proceed with their hospital and community health services reconfiguration, Calderdale Council is committed to working closely with the CCGs and the Hospital Trust to make the plans a success.”