HEALTH SECRETARY Jeremy Hunt has admitted that 30 per cent of patients at Dewsbury and District Hospital’s A&E department could be transferred to Pinderfields as a result of a planned downgrade.
The figure was revealed in a letter he sent to Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff, after she requested information about the proposed changes to A&E services at the hospital.
Mr Hunt’s letter said: “I understand that the A&E department at the hospital will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and that around 70 per cent of patients attending would see no change in the service.
“However, those who are more seriously ill and require very specialist care will no longer be treated at Dewsbury but taken to the nearest appropriate hospital, such as Pinderfields in Wakefield, where they will be seen more quickly by a clinician with the right skills.”
This news comes in the week that health officials revealed a £500,000 makeover of the emergency department as part of the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust’s investment in Dewsbury Hospital.
The makeover includes an extended paediatric waiting area, four additional cubicles, three times the number of available rooms for patients who need more privacy, separate areas for patients depending on the severity of their illness or injury, large boards illustrating the patient journey through the department and a new relatives’ room.
But Labour MP Paula Sherriff has hit out at Mr Hunt and believes that despite the changes there is still cause for major concern over the planned downgrade.
“Any talk of downgrading services remains preposterous,” she said. “And Jeremy Hunt has finally admitted that Dewsbury and District Hospital’s A&E department will see a downgrade.
“I am angry about what this will mean for local people. During the election, Theresa May accused me of scaremongering but now the government admits that patient care in Dewsbury is going to suffer.
“I am extremely concerned about the impact this will have on patient safety, given that we have seen other hospitals in the region, especially Pinderfields, struggling to cope with the demand.
“As long as I am the MP here, Dewsbury will have somebody who will always stand up and fight for our local NHS services.”
Meanwhile, Dewsbury Rams rugby league captain Paul Sykes cut the ribbon at an opening ceremony for the new emergency department on Monday.
Jim McManus, lead nurse in the department, said: “These changes are helping to make a huge difference to the patient experience.
“Having designated areas to treat different patients (paediatrics, minor illnesses and major injuries), means patients are seen by the right practitioner in a more timely fashion, helping to reduce their waiting time and improving patient flow. Separate waiting rooms also help to reduce the effect of overcrowding.
"Increasing the paediatric waiting area was a necessity due to the number of children we see. We can now provide children and their families with a more appropriate environment separate from the adults.”
The investment in the department is part of the Trust’s plan to spend £2.5m a year on the modernisation and rationalisation of Dewsbury hospital, for each of the next several years.
Bosses plan for Dewsbury to become a ‘centre of excellence’ for planned non-emergency and rehabilitation, with acute inpatient care centralising at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
Ms Sherriff, who has been a staunch campaigner against the downgrade of the hospital, added: “The re-decoration and modernisation of facilities at Dewsbury Hospital’s' emergency department will no doubt be welcomed by patients and their families.
“Unfortunately this does not address serious concerns about the planned downgrade of services for the department. This will see all acute cases transferred to Pinderfields Hospital, as there won’t be facilities to treat them at Dewsbury’s A&E.
“Worryingly, we’re seeing ambulances being diverted back to Dewsbury from Pinderfields as they are struggling to cope with demand.
“Whilst patients are waiting hours to be treated at A&E and targets are being missed, any talk of downgrading services remains preposterous.”