SPEN councillors say plans for the future of Dewsbury and District Hospital are “worrying”.
At a packed meeting of the Spen Valley Area Committee on Tuesday, changes to services at the hospital were the main talking point.
In addition to the planned scaling-down of its accident and emergency department, both of the two options for changes to services in the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust include having a midwife-led maternity unit at Dewsbury Hospital.
Under the current system, consultant obstetricians are based on both sites during the day, and on call for both Dewsbury and Pinderfields hospitals from 8pm-8am. New proposals will see specialists based at Pinderfields 24 hours a day, but with no consultants available to service Dewsbury’s maternity ward.
Coun Kath Pinnock (LibDem, Cleck) said: “There are a lot of concerns about infant mortality rates in our area, and that some of the poorer communities who do not find it easy to travel far will suffer – that is a definite worry for me.”
Coun David Hall said: “In both options, we only have the option of midwifery-led units at Dewsbury. It concerns me that if there was something going wrong with a delivery, there would not be a consultant at Dewsbury to help the mother.
“I also worry that if the public are not happy with the services provided at Dewsbury, they will go elsewhere – Bradford, Leeds or Huddersfield – which will make the services provided at Dewsbury unviable.”
Anne Ward, head of midwifery at the Mid-Yorkshire NHS Trust, defended plans for Dewsbury’s maternity unit, and said services would actually improve under the new proposals.
She said: “People are worried about the journey times to Pinderfields being longer, but the average labour time for a woman giving birth is 12 hours, so that shouldn’t be a concern.
“There are fewer doctors specialising in obstetrics and we need specialised staff in certain areas. The Trust plans to have consultant obstetricians on site 24 hours a day, I believe that will improve the service.”
Peter Robson, of the Save Local Hospital Services organisation, told the meeting that the Trust was relying too heavily on private companies to provide services.
He said: “The Trust is £22m in debt – is it going to go on a rampant spree of privatisation through the back door?”
Sheila Mellor, from Earlsheaton, said: “Dewsbury A&E will not be able to deal with any major problems if these plans go through. It is not ethical to expect elderly people in their 80s and 90s to travel all that way.”
The chief executive of NHS Kirklees, Mike Potts, said free healthcare would still be available to everyone in Kirklees.