Slaithwaite resident says ‘future of A&Es’ drop in session was like wrestling with fog


Martin Jones, a Slaithwaite resident, reports on his experience of the Slaithwaite public drop in session yesterday (30th May) about the future of Calderdale and Huddersfield hospitals and community healthcare. He notes that the information on display at the drop in didn’t mention proposals for closing/downgrading one or both A&Es – proposals that have met with widespread public opposition.

The event was organised by the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and there were
representatives from the CCG, the Hospital Trust, the Mental Health Trust and Locala.
They said this was still part of the informal consultation and that the formal
consultation would come later when there are specific proposals.

I knew Calderdale Council had pulled out of the Right Care, Right Time, Right Place
consortium* because it wants an independent enquiry.  I had not realised Kirklees Council
was still a member, although it was not represented.

The attendance was low.  I did not do a specific count, but by 4 o’clock there were more
staff present than members of the public.  I asked about the publicity for the event,
because even though I was interested in the topic I had only heard about the consultation
from the ‘opposition’.

The event was unstructured.  There were a few displays, but mainly people milled around
speaking to the various representatives.  It could be random who you ended up speaking to.

Haphazard recording of public questions and comments

The NHS organisations’ recording of the public responses was a bit haphazard, with some
reps writing stuff down and others not recording anything of their conversations.
There was no one ‘neutral’ or independent to collect views from a disinterested
perspective.  There were a couple of forms that could be filled in and left, but again it
seemed haphazard if these were given to people.

I asked how the responses would be quantified and made available because I was worried
about them ‘cherry picking’ the bits they liked.  The rep from the CCG was initially
unsure.  She checked and told me a report will go to ‘stakeholders’.  She said she would
email a copy when it was ready.

Poor quality information on display

I felt the posters on display that had the ‘evidence’ were very poor.  They were full of
vague, abstract and unspecific intentions, along the lines of ‘Our patients told us
that …’

The posters gave little detail about where the various claims made had actually come from.
The posters had no specific proposals and I think they did not even mention the
possible closure of an A & E unit *.

Highly paid staff good at sidestepping the issues

The discussions with the staff were more productive and they gave the impression of being
open and wanting to discuss fully, although on some topics their responses were limited.

The  Hospitals Trust’s medical director emphasised the benefits of specialisation in emergency medicine, but seemed to be going back on the idea that downsizing Calderdale A & E was the Trust’s preferred option.  She said the Trust had come under quite a lot of pressure for having a preferred option, when it was the job of the CCG to decide.  She said she was misrepresented in the recent Examiner articles about closing both A & Es.

[Editor’s note: Nick Lavigueur, the Huddersfield Examiner health reporter responsible for the article in question, contacted Plain Speaker to say,

“I have what the medical director said to me on tape and would dispute she was misrepresented.”

He has told the Hospital Trust’s communications officer that he stands by the interpretation that the Trust’s Medical Director believed that it was a reality that option 4 would happen, as she brought up option 4 in the interview unprompted and “seemed keen to talk about it”. Nick’s comment in full is posted at the end of this report.]

No one would talk in detail about the PFI and the effect this has on the Trust’s
finances, but the medical director said the PFI was something they had to live with.  The
CCG and the others said they were not driven by privatisation and that the proposals
would not necessarily lead to that, but that is not the same as an assurance that there
will be no privatisation.

I asked about the ambulance service and was told they were being consulted and were
undertaking modeling of different types and levels of demand.  The reps stressed the
importance of good quality care in the ambulances if some journeys were going to be
longer.  They were not clear about how this fits with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service policy of introducing lower qualified ambulance workers.

The staff spoke, some passionately, about the benefits of coordinated community-based
care.  However the details of these changes remains very vague, whilst the threat to
A & E is very clear.  There is the real danger of the A & E closure taking place before
any community changes are made.

I think this form of consultation is used to make it difficult to debate as a group
about what is best.  It is set up so views are only expressed individually, not
collectively.  It can be difficult to quantify the views expressed.  The reps were all
highly paid senior staff with a vested interest in the outcomes.  They were very good
at side stepping the issues.  Sometimes it felt a bit like wrestling with fog.

* Editor’s notes: 1) What Martin calls the “Right Care Consortium” is the 7 organisations who, over the course of 2 years, prepared the Calderdale and Huddersfield Strategic Review of the future of the NHS and social care. These organisations are: the two Clinical Commissioning Groups (Greater Huddersfield and Calderdale); the Hospitals Trust, the Mental Health Trust, Locala and the two Councils – Calderdale and Kirklees).

On the basis of the Strategic Review, the Trusts and Locala prepared the Strategic Outline Case aka Right Care Right Time Right Place. This is a set of proposals for how to turn the Strategic Review proposals into reality. This is what the current drop in consultations are about. Confused? So is everyone else. 

Calderdale Council recently voted to tell the Trusts and Locala to withdraw their Right Care proposals. As far as I know, the Trusts and Locala haven’t taken any notice.

2) The fact that the information on display doesn’t mention proposals to close one or possibly both A&Es is in line with the Clinical Commission Group’s decision to “rebrand” their public “engagement” strategy, to avoid talking about the A&E closures. There is widespread public opposition to proposals to close one or both A&Es.

2 thoughts on “Slaithwaite resident says ‘future of A&Es’ drop in session was like wrestling with fog

  1. I have what the medical director said to me on tape and would dispute she was misrepresented. The headline of the piece is technically not right as the threat of option 4 has always been there. I also confess publicly to mistakenly using quotation marks on the word “suspects”, in relation to her thoughts that option 4 would happen. However, as I said to CHFT comms, I stand by the interpretation that she believed it was a reality as she brought up option 4 in our interview unprompted and seemed keen to talk about it.

    Nick – Huddersfield Examiner

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.