Mike Forster, Hands Off HRI campaign chair
Local campaigners fighting to save hospital services in Huddersfield have won an important victory. We were delighted and surprised by an announcement by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt on 11 May.
He said of the NHS bosses’ proposals for Huddersfield Royal Infirmary (HRI)that there are a variety of failings in their case. The proposals lack consistency, there is widespread scepticism, there is no evidence of adequate out-of-hospital care, the loss of beds is unjustifiable and there is no evidence of capital finance being available.
Hunt correctly concludes that the proposal to downgrade HRI is “not in the best interests of the people” of Kirklees and Calderdale. He has ordered the clinical commissioning group (CCG) to develop new proposals which take into account these misgivings. Their initial plan is dead in the water.
This outcome has completely vindicated the long and relentless campaign waged by Hands Off HRI over the last two and a half years. We’ve had mass demonstrations, lobbies in London, local organising groups and a huge fundraising effort.
It also supports the findings of the courts that ordered a full judicial review, which is currently scheduled to go ahead in June. There is little doubt that that decision to allow a legal challenge to the proposals has concentrated minds.
The judge identified five counts of public law which could be tested. Hands Off HRI commissioned three professional clinical, financial and building experts to scrutinise the proposal in preparation for the court hearing. Their findings completely bear out Hunt’s observations.
Where does this leave the future of HRI? While delighted with this decision, Hands Off HRI recognises that this is not the end of the proposal to shut our hospital. It is the same CCG which is being asked to think again.
Hunt has ordered the relevant authorities to develop a new plan over the next three months. Hands Off HRI will be engaging with this process by submitting further evidence.
However momentum is now with our campaign and the whole town is lifted by the decision. There is renewed confidence that we can see this through to the end.
If you stand up and fight, you can win. It’s only a done deal if you do nowt.