HEALTH chiefs have given their final approval for major changes at Dewsbury District Hospital from next month.
The downgrade of maternity care and changes to children’s and surgical services comes into effect on Friday, September 16.
Approval was granted earlier this year pending a safety review in June, which has now reported. It seals the start of the process of winding down Dewsbury as a stand-alone district hospital.
Findings from the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and the North Kirklees and Wakefield clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) backed the moves.
The announcement prompted a warning from Coun Paul Kane (Lab, Dewsbury East) that lives could be at risk at the new birthing unit.
Women who suffer complications at the midwife-led centre in Dewsbury will have to be transferred to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
For a number of years, North Kirklees has had one of the worst neo- and post-natal mortality rates in the UK because of various factors, including the high proportion of mothers from south Asian backgrounds and obesity levels among local mothers-to-be.
Coun Kane said: “When you look at the distance between the two hospitals, it’s inevitable that there will be problems.
“What I want to know in terms of the safety review is: who have they been talking to, because they certainly haven’t been talking to us (councillors)?”
Between Friday, September 16, and Sunday, September 19, the following changes come into effect:
n New midwife-led birthing centres will open at Dewsbury and Pinderfields;
n Dewsbury children’s unit to open from 10am to 10pm;
n Children requiring hospital admission go to Pinderfields or a specialist centre;
n Acute surgery centralised at Pinderfields;
n More planned surgery will be provided at Dewsbury and Pontefract.
For pregnant women, routine ante- and post-natal care will still be at all three hospitals (Pontefract is the other) and in the community.
At Dewsbury, there will be scans and assessment for some women with problems in early pregnancy.
But the consultant-led labour ward will be centralised at Pinderfields, which means all complex deliveries, such as Caesareans, will be there.
Consultants will be on duty for longer hours than at present and senior clinical staff will be in the labour ward unit 24/7.
MP Paula Sherriff (Lab, Dewsbury and Mirfield) said: “These initial changes at Dewsbury District Hospital will leave the whole of Kirklees without consultant-led maternity services.
“Expectant mothers will have to travel outside the borough if they want the reassurance of knowing that a consultant will be available if required during childbirth.
“A midwife-led unit does not even offer the option for an epidural, which is often vital pain relief for mothers to be.”
Miss Sherriff, who is on parliament’s health select committee, is to chair a public meeting about the issues at Dewsbury Town Hall on Tuesday, August 23 (7.30pm.)
Coun Kane, meanwhile, wants greater public accountability for the risks these changes could involve.
He said: “There’s no elected members on these boards anymore. That link between the executive board and councillors was broken some years ago.
“We should campaign for getting people onto these boards, not just elected members, but others who care about their communities.
“The problem at the moment is they’re all professionals and they only see this in pounds, shillings and pence.”
Most complex surgery and surgery for those needing critical care support will be centralised at Pinderfields.
This excludes colorectal and bariatric (weight loss) surgery, which will move to Pinderfields when critical care services are centralised next spring.
That change will see A&E at Dewsbury downgraded to a minor injuries unit in plans approved by the Government in 2014.
Coun Kane said: “The way the NHS is being run at the moment is appalling.
“But we should keep protesting. Some of the action groups around the country have forced changes and that’s what we should do.”
Miss Sherriff added: “I remain incredibly concerned about patient safety across the Mid Yorkshire hospital trust.
“I have held numerous meetings and taken part in debates in parliament to bring these issues to the attention of the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.
“I am extremely disappointed that no action has been taken and that these downgrades are still going ahead.
“I will continue to scrutinise and monitor the trust and the CCGs and also to press for more joint working across the Kirklees footprint.”
Meanwhile, there will be a meeting in Mirfield on Monday about proposed hospital changes in Huddersfield.
The event is at St Andews’s Church Hall on Old Bank Road at 7pm, which Ms Sherriff is due to attend.
Also there will be Kirklees Tory group leader Coun David Hall (Con, Liversedge and Gomersal) and his deputy Coun Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield).
Coun Bolt hopes people attend and said: “Whatever happens in Huddersfield could have an impact on North Kirklees.”