Calderdale Royal Hospital

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 12th December 2013.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Linda Riordan Linda Riordan Labour, Halifax 4:24 pm, 12th December 2013

I am very much hoping that the Minister is going to tell us that Calderdale Royal hospital’s accident and emergency department is guaranteed to stay open.

The Government set the policies, and they must also take responsibility for any decisions that will affect the A and E in Calderdale. Also, there should be no hiding behind a public consultation. The question is quite simple: do the Government support the retention of the accident and emergency department in Calderdale? If they do, there is no need for any consultation. If they do not, they should come clean and set out their position. This lack of clarity is causing a lot of worry, anguish and anger in my constituency and across Calderdale.

Last week I organised a round-table meeting with interested parties at local level to discuss a way forward. The town is united in the need to ensure that Calderdale’s A and E stays put. Let us imagine what would happen if the department were cut back or closed. I presume that the services would transfer to Huddersfield. For many of my constituents that would mean at best a 20-minute journey, but probably journeys of 25, 30, 35 or even 40 minutes along busy roads, past a motorway interchange, and into Huddersfield. At the risk of using emotive language, such a move really could be a matter of life and death. Do health bosses think that people would stop using the other A and Es if they closed the one in Calderdale? I do not think they would. I also want to place on the record that this is not about Halifax versus Huddersfield; it is not about pitting one A and E against the other. This is about ensuring that people across west Yorkshire have access to good quality health care that is rooted in their local communities.

Let us just examine for a moment why this position might have come about. Since 2010, the Government have been systematically dismantling alternatives to A and E: a quarter of walk-in centres have been closed since the election; NHS Direct has been scrapped; the guarantee of a GP appointment within 48 hours has been scrapped; and fewer and fewer GP practices are open at evenings and weekends. People in Halifax and Calderdale will have fewer alternatives, not more, if the A and E closes. If patients are waiting more than four hours for treatment, is the answer to close A and Es? I do not think it is. This crisis is not due to a lack of education or people going to A and E with minor problems; it is more to do with cuts to social care budgets, meaning that more older people are ending up in hospital because there is no one else to take care of them.

If the Government’s answer to an A and E crisis is to close A and E departments, we really are in trouble in Halifax. Cutting back on services does not solve the problem; it just transfers it elsewhere. I am determined to fight for better services at Calderdale Royal, not to see them cut. I want to see our A and E department saved, not sacrificed. I want to see the excellent staff supported, not under-resourced, and to ensure we have the best possible NHS serving Halifax and its wider communities.

The reaction of the public in my constituency has been an overwhelming “Hands off our A and E department.” We need it to stay open, to continue the excellent service it provides and to ensure it serves the people of Halifax today and for years to come. Anything else would be a tragic mistake of short-term thinking, and a failure to provide my constituents with a local hospital and a national health service fit for the 21st century.