The closure of Huddersfield A&E and Meningitis: Spotlight on the Holme Valley
04 March, 2016
Following the proposed closure of Huddersfield A&E department in order to combine services at the (supposedly nearby) Calderdale Hospital in Halifax, many will be adversely effected. This will be felt most strongly in the Holme Valley area of Kirklees, which will be the place in West Yorkshire furthest away from a hospital if the plans were to go ahead. In the event of a serious illness, what are the options for residents in this area? The nearest A&E department would require a journey to a different county, over moorland, which can be impassable during the winter months.
With a population of 6,768 children in the Holme Valley according to the 2011 census and recent petitions for the Meningitis B jab being rejected, residents will understandably be concerned about the heightened risk the proposed closure poses. f the proposal was to go ahead, children with suspected meningitis in the Holme Valley would not have quick access to medical care, which could result in severe consequences which may otherwise be preventable should Huddersfield A&E remain open.
Meningitis, an infection of the spinal cord and brain, can take hold of the body extremely quickly, with some children developing symptoms a mere 40 minutes before sepsis takes hold. Babies and young children are most likely to contract the illness and as this study by BBC Radio Leeds shows, the nearest hospital for the Holme Valley would be a minimum of 35 minutes away in Barnsley. Residents don’t even have the option of paying for vaccinations, with a worldwide shortage currently in place, and stock not expected to grow until summer 2016 fast diagnosis and treatment for suspected cases really is the only line of defence.
Calderdale hospital is also likely to be overworked as a result of catering for more than twice the amount of patients it was built for. Under such conditions, mistakes are more likely to occur. So, even if patients reach a hospital in time, they will be competing for doctor’s attention much more than they would at Huddersfield’s already crowded A&E department. This could result in misdiagnosis, or treatment being delayed until it is too late. As many are aware, meningitis is a serious illness, sometimes resulting in the loss of limbs, or in more serious cases: death.
Photo credit: Andrew Sanderson www.AndrewSanderson.com
It must also be taken into account how long it will take ambulances to reach a sick child in the first place, never mind the additional time needed to get to the hospital itself. With a delay of 35 minutes or more, this distance could mean the difference between life and death. Residents of the Holme Valley are understandably frustrated that they seem to have been forgotten about, as surely if they were to be remembered it would be clear that shutting Huddersfield A&E will only result in serious illnesses becoming worse, perhaps resulting in more deaths.Deaths, loss of limbs, and other adverse effects of a delay in treatment due to the distance to an A&E department may lead to claims against the local NHS trust. With the NHS already paying millions in compensation per year, why do they feel the need to add to this by creating further delays in treatment by closing a much needed hospital? It is likely that in the case of such serious illness, the compensation can amount to six or seven figures if it is found that the delay in treatment was the cause of, or exacerbated, the results. Is there likely to be any saving of money, which is the intention behind the closure, when such claims will cost them so much. It is therefore fair to say #HandsOffHRI