FINAL arguments are being made in the battle to save key services at under-threat Dewsbury District Hospital.
With the deadline of May 31 – next Friday – looming, for what critics have described as a “sham” consultation process, protestors fear any and all arguments have been in vain.
People who attended the final ‘Meeting the Challenge’ event at Dewsbury Town Hall on Tuesday emerged expressing a sense of inevitable defeat.
Meanwhile a report commissioned by Unison attacked the plans by the Mid Yorks NHS Trust to savage Dewsbury’s health provisions as “unsustainable” without pouring millions into other Dewsbury and Batley area health facilities.
Unison commissioned an analysis of the proposals to cut A&E, maternity and children's units and its author, Dr John Lister, concluded the scheme will only work with increased spending on community care.
Dr Lister, a lecturer at Coventry University who specialises in health journalism, is involved with an NHS pressure group called Health Emergency.
Dr Lister’s review noted that none of the £38m the plan could cost to implement is earmarked for community care at GP surgeries.
Most of the cash, £33.5m, would go directly on Pinderfields Hospital, including an extended high dependency unit.
These changes could eventually save £9.7m a year in running costs, though hospital bosses deny this is their main aim.
Unison added a conclusion based on Dr Lister's assessment calling for GPs to have more resources if the hospital downgrade goes ahead.
It said: "Without very substantial, concrete and properly resourced plans to improve both primary care and community-based health care... (the plans) will not only fail to deliver the hoped-for savings, but will prove increasingly difficult to deliver and sustain."
Unison also used the report to question the denials from Trust bosses that the downgrading of Dewsbury is not about saving money.
They wrote: “The plans centre on cuts in hospital care which leave the Private Finance Initiative-funded hospitals (Pinderfields and Pontefract) intact, but shut down specialist and emergency services at Dewsbury. It has all the hallmarks of a cash-cutting plan.”
Meanwhile Dewsbury East councillor Paul Kane, has continued his protests against the validity of the consultation process.
Writing to both the Trust and the Scrutiny Panel, Coun Kane said the downgrading “will inevitably cost lives.” and will reduce Dewsbury “to little more than a cottage hospital and triage centre”.
Coun Kane was scathing of the way the consultation process was loaded, adding:
“I have been informed by numerous people that they feel the consultation documentation is a farce and that the questions are steered to get the answer the Trust requires.
“People also say to me that they will not fill them in due the lack of an envelope and the content.
“I have to put on record that I feel the consultation process is flawed and that the proposals will cost lives to Dewsbury Hopsital patients and wider communities, due to reduction in specialist services and staff.”
In response the Mid Yorks Trust issued statements backing its own plans claiming that the centralisation of key services at Pinderfields will improve waiting times and offer improved standards of care, while maintaining emergency care at all of its three hospitals including Dewsbury.
A&E consultant Dr Matt Shepherd leads the teams who provide emergency care for the Trust. He said: “We understand the concerns residents have about the proposed changes but as a consultant in emergency medicine I believe they would lead to improved care for patients - and that has to be our number one priority.
“People would still be able to access A&E services at their local hospital but the more serious emergencies would go to Pinderfields – where all the people with the specialist skills needed to help save the lives of the very seriously ill are together, working as a team, with the vital support and back-up they need.
“The bottom line is this would lead to better survival rates and improved recovery rates for the most seriously ill.
“I think this is the right thing to do. We cannot provide the same service across all three sites because there are simply not enough emergency doctors to go round and it is not possible to duplicate all the support services required.
“At the moment, local children who need an operation are looked after in a specialist centre in Pinderfields. Children who need to stay in hospital for a medical condition are looked after in Dewsbury. The proposal is to move this medical service to Pinderfields.
There would be no change to outpatient care, which would continue to be available at Dewsbury Hospital.
Dr Karen Stone, a paediatric consultant for 12 years, said: “Across the country, changes are happening to children’s services – and it is for a very good reason.
“We know that when specialist services are brought together, we see better outcomes for poorly children.
“These services are also being brought together because the need for them is reducing as we treat more and more children in the community or at home instead of in hospital – and this is better for them and their families.
“I know that parents in Dewsbury are concerned about the changes because they feel they are losing a service.
“We believe they will have a better service with even better care – but it would mean that the children who need to stay at least one night with a medical condition would be cared for in Pinderfields.”
With maternity services, Dewsbury’s consultant-led unit would be scaled down radically to a six-bed midwife-led ward.
Dr Kathryn Fishwick said: “These proposals would allow us to concentrate consultant expertise on one site and allow consultants to be present around the clock.
“This has been shown to be safer for mothers with pregnancy problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, and also for those whose babies are growing slowly or are unwell.
“Research shows that for a woman with no medical problems and a healthy baby, the chances of a normal delivery is higher in the less stressful more holistic environment of a midwife-led unit or at home.
“Women with medical problems, pregnancy-related problems, premature labours or poorly babies are best served in a unit with round-the-clock consultant care, backed up with neo-natal and specialist anaesthetic services for those who need operations or intensive care.
“Women who have any concerns about delivering in a midwife-led unit or who worry they may not manage without an epidural could choose to go to the consultant-led unit.
“However, they will have their ante-natal care at their local hospital or in the community.”