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News

Huddersfield A + E Closure - What will this mean? #HandsOffHRI

25 February, 2016

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary entrance sign

As a business, First4Lawyers is based in Huddersfield. Our directors were born here and many of our staff live here too. So when we heard the news that Huddersfield A + E may be closed down, we were understandably worried. The plan is to close down Huddersfield’s A + E, and replace the service in Calderdale, which is an extra 5.4 miles drive. This may not sound like much, but the notorious Elland Bypass means that you would be lucky to make this journey in 20 minutes, 20 minutes which could save your life.

The people of Huddersfield are understandably annoyed, with almost 60,000 people signing a petition calling for the plans to be scrapped. The population of Huddersfield is almost double that of Halifax, with 422458 residents in Kirklees and 203826 in Calderdale (according to the 2011 census) yet their A + E will remain and will have to service both areas. This seems to be unfeasible, especially since in the past week both Huddersfield and Calderdale Hospital declared a ‘black alert’ meaning the hospitals were so full they could not take any more patients. If this is happening before the change has come about, how can it the transition feasibly work without a queue out of the door for A + E?

There is also a suggestion that the plans will lead to a slip in standards. If the staff at Calderdale are to be overworked, and over the capacity the hospital was built for, how can they expect to deliver a high standard of care? Instead, the hospital is likely to want to rush patients through to cope with demand, leading to potentially deadly mistakes being made. The BBC recently reported on the high amount of ‘never events’ that have occurred in the past few years. A ‘never event’ is where something occurs within medicine that should never have happened, for instance if someone was supposed to have their left leg removed and their right leg was removed instead. If this figure is already so high, is it not likely to increase if hospitals such as Calderdale are overworked? The hospital is already struggling to fulfil demand, as the black alert suggests, so they are unlikely to be able to cope with double, if not more, the amount of patients they are currently seeing.

This decision does not just effect those within central Huddersfield, whose journey to hospital will have been relatively short anyway. This especially effects those on the outskirts of Huddersfield, such as those within the Holme Valley, who will now have to travel for 35 minutes or more to reach a hospital, as this study by BBC Radio Leeds shows. In the 2011 census 65% of Holme Valley residents recorded themselves as having less than ‘good health’ with 4% recording bad health – very bad health. Those in the Holme Valley have far to travel as it is, this percentage of bad health may increase as many find themselves deteriorating without easy access to hospital care.

The reasoning behind the closure is of course to save money, but will it really save that much money in the long term? According to the Huddersfield Examiner, Calderdale was chosen because it was £31m cheaper, but Calderdale hospital will still see the same amount of patients that Calderdale and Huddersfield see combined, people will not suddenly stop being ill or injured just because the hospital is closed. The only reason they will see less, is because people may die during the longer journey to the hospital, or because they’re being turned away due to the hospital being too full. This will only lead to lawsuits, which can be extremely costly. If, for example, someone is presented with a head injury and the hospital is too full, or the journey takes too long, this may lead to brain damage. Severe brain damage can result in compensation between £200k and £300k, a significant figure. Lawsuits such as this will be costly, and whilst the NHS trust may save money on the costs of running the Huddersfield A + E building, they will not save much else, and they will definitely not save lives, which should be the ultimate priority with a hospital.  

It should be clear that we must all unite, and say #HandsOffHRI