Grantham

Local Democracy Weekly: Health campaigners’ fight – From Huddersfield to Grantham

In August 2018, the old mill town of Huddersfield breathed a sigh of relief after plans to demolish its accident and emergency department were scrapped by health bosses.

It followed years of discussions with government, dispute among local councillors and pressure from campaigners, Hands Off HRI.

Those fighting for answers over the overnight closure of Grantham A&E can take hope from the story, but it also shows how far and how long the tale in Lincolnshire has come.

 


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Huddersfield, a university town with surrounding villages in the Holme Valley, looked set to lose its emergency department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary under a blueprint unveiled in January 2016.

The plan was to move most A&E care five miles down the A629 to Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax and replace the existing department with a smaller, 64-bed unit.

Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Picture: Ian M.

Under the proposals, the neighbouring emergency department would have soaked up demand from Huddersfield and the wider Colne Valley with some travelling as long as half an hour to get there.

Thousands of campaigners took their feelings on the matter first to Huddersfield Town centre in a demonstration in St George’s Square, before putting pressure on health scrutiny councillors to refer the matter to the then health secretary, Jeremy Hunt.

In May 2018, Mr Hunt described the blueprint for urgent care as “flawed” and “not in the interests of people of Calderdale and Greater Huddersfield”. He called on health bosses to rethink the plans, which, ultimately, led to them being scrapped.

Hands Off HRI campaign which demonstrated against plans to demolish the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary A&E department. Picture: Hands Off HRI.

The matter echoes the efforts made by campaign groups in Lincolnshire.

While we are still waiting on the Department for Health to respond to calls from councillors to step in on the overnight closure of Grantham A&E, the story is the same.

Campaigners flooded the streets of Grantham in a show of defiance against “behind-closed-doors” decision making, a perception which local STP chief, John Turner, later vowed to tackle.

Councillors felt the same and referred to the decision to the secretary of state, much like their Huddersfield colleagues.

Former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, was called to step in on both plans at Grantham and Huddersfield. Picture: NHS Confederation.

But, while both Calderdale and Huddersfield move on and go back to the drawing board, Lincolnshire still continues its deliberations over Grantham A&E and campaigners continue their fight.

This week, the effect of the closure was revealed in the shape of 2,598 patients going out of the county to attend an A&E in Peterborough.

Meanwhile, in February this year, councillors decided to write to the Prime Minister on the matter after three years and more than 1,000 days without an overnight service.

Thousands previously took to the streets in protest at the overnight closure of Grantham A&E. Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Reporter

Lincolnshire County Council intends to scrutinise health bosses over the matter, while also awaiting a response from the government on their decision making and scrutinising new proposals for an urgent treatment centre in the town.

The story may have come to some conclusion in the Pennines of West Yorkshire, but it continues in Grantham.

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