A CAMPAIGNER fears warnings about parts of the Dewsbury District Hospital site being sold off for housing are about to come true.
Khizar Iqbal spoke out after the full scale of a £20m investment at the Staincliffe campus was detailed by health chiefs.
The Press exclusively revealed the plan, which includes a new main entrance, two weeks ago.
Bosses at the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust have now said the scheme also involves selling off older buildings.
These include the Bronte Tower, the Victorian Staincliffe Wing, the Oakwell Centre and the Pickard and Pickersgill accommodation buildings.
The sale of the Bronte Tower was previously ruled out during the consultation on downgrading hospital services.
Images of the site’s proposed future layout mark them as ‘surplus land’, with Mr Iqbal now fearing the worst.
He said: “My (NHS) sources have always insisted the trust’s real intention is to sell part of the site to a housing developer.
“I bet if you asked the trust to guarantee land wouldn’t be sold for housing they wouldn’t be able to give it.
“I’ve warned about this before and was called a scaremongerer. I just hope this isn’t phase one of closing the hospital altogether.”
The Press understands leasing the land to other organisations or selling it off has not been ruled out.
Trust chief executive Stephen Eames said the land could be used to develop GP-led primary care facilities.
Mr Eames said: “We would look to reinvest the revenue from any sale of land back into local health care.”
The plan includes:
• A new main entrance;
• A new paediatric assessment unit;
• Revamped operating theatres;
• A new MRI scanner plus other clinical equipment;
• Upgraded IT systems.
Staff at the trust have been briefed on the plans over the last two weeks, including at a meeting last Thursday.
Any change depends on whether the downgrade of A&E and maternity units is approved by the Government.
Cash would come partly from the trust’s capital budget over the next four years and savings from reduced running costs.
Mr Eames said: “Clearly we will not be moving ahead with this until we hear back from the Secretary of State.”
Former Kirklees Dewsbury South councillor Mr Iqbal hopes health secretary Jeremy Hunt throws out the reorganisation.
Even if approved the changes could get thrown out by the courts, as in the case of Lewisham Hospital in London this week.
The Court of Appeal ruled Mr Hunt did not have the power to order similar service cuts at Lewisham to those proposed for Dewsbury.
Two other at risk London hospitals, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex, will keep A&E and maternity for now but face cuts later.
Mr Iqbal said: “I hope the secretary of state will not make any decision that will undermine the delivery of healthcare in Dewsbury.
“Questions should be asked of those politicians who’ve blindly followed what the trust’s told them. I’ve never accepted the loss of services and never will.”
His comments were echoed by Coun Karen Rowling (Lab, Dewsbury West), also a member of the Save Dewsbury Hospital Campaign.
She said: “That £20m should be spent saving those services and not giving the hospital a facelift.”
Trust boss Mr Eames claimed the older buildings are expensive to run and hoped savings can be ploughed into new services (see p3).
Facilities in the affected buildings, including a children’s centre and nursery, would be moved elsewhere. Talks are already under way with staff.
Mr Eames said: “In its current condition the site will cost us about £15m over the next five years just to keep it maintained.
“This isn’t the best use of taxpayers’ money. By concentrating services into more modern parts of the site we can release some of the older buildings.”
GPs could use hospital site
DOCTORS have already expressed interest in using part of Dewsbury District Hospital for new GP-led services.
Land at the Staincliffe site could be put up for sale by the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
The North Kirklees Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is considering an out-of-hours centre for part of the site.
CCG Chairman Dr David Kelly, of Heckmondwike's Brookroyd Surgery, said: "People who need to see a GP often attend A&E.
“The NHS has looked at ways of encouraging people to go to their GP rather than come to hospital, which have not always been successful.
“If people are telling us the hospital can be the most convenient place for them to see a GP then it makes sense for us to look at options for providing primary care facilities there."
Ways to improve access to same-day appointments at practices and offer extended opening hours are also being looked at.
Dr Kelly added: “We need to be working towards providing appropriate primary care services on a 24/7 basis.
“This should greatly reduce the need for people to attend A&E, making GP practices the first port of call for services.
“We are jointly working with Mid-Yorkshire in exploring ways to achieve this locally for our patients.”
Emergency care unit is launched
A NEW service aiming to offer quick diagnosis and treatment was introduced at Dewsbury District Hospital yesterday (Thurs).
Called an Ambulatory Emergency Care Unit, patients who do not need admission to a hospital bed are referred there by A&E or their GP for treatment.
It is hoped the move will ease pressure on A&E – allowing medics to focus on the most seriously ill.
The national scheme was created to cope with rising demand for A&E care while budgets, beds and staff are being cut.
Health bosses claim a trial at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield from September proved successful.
Figures show 246 out of 305 patients were treated and went home without being admitted in its first five weeks.
Dr Dinesh Nagi, clinical director at the Mid-Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said the Dewsbury unit will work Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
He added: “It will ensure patients in North Kirklees get the right care, in the right place and at the right time.
“The Pinderfields unit has been running successfully so far and the feedback we have received from patients has been extremely positive.
“Patients prefer it because they don’t have to stay in hospital any longer than they need to.
“They are able to be at home with their families overnight even though tests and treatments may still be ongoing within the hospital.”