LOCAL politicians have criticised NHS bosses after they admitted hospitals are struggling to cope with increased demand - and patients could be sent to Dewsbury to ease pressure.
Hemsworth MP Jon Trickett has called for old buildings facing demolition at Pontefract General Infirmary to be saved while district councillor Ian Womersley said he had been “right all along” after Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust admitted more patients than they anticipated were turning up for treatment at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield.
The increased demand is putting strain on A&E waiting times and beds for patient recovery - and an extra 76 beds have now been added to Dewsbury and District Hospital to cope with the increase.
Mr Trickett, who has been in discussion with town and parish councils over the issue, said: “I have strongly argued for a long time with NHS professionals that their reconfiguration plans did not include enough beds.
“In recent months I have, in the bluntest terms possible, told officials that they should not push ahead with the demolition of Pontefract Hospital buildings, which can be utilised now for 50 extra beds. Beds in Dewsbury are no help to people in this area.”
Coun Womersley said: “When they first started building the new hospitals I campaigned against the changes because people from this area would have to travel to Dewsbury for certain services.
“Now everything I predicted has come true because Wakefield cannot cope. They wouldn’t listen and this is what happens. We said from the word go that it would take away a very valuable resource from the Five Towns.
“My wife is ill and we are going to Barnsley for treatment because travelling between Wakefield, Pontefract and Dewsbury would be a logistical nightmare.”
Union officials have also claimed they warned against cutting beds before the hospital was built under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI).
Adrian O’Malley, chairman of the Mid Yorkshire Trust Unison branch, said: “We provided evidence to show more beds were needed. Obviously we welcome more beds because there is immense pressure on Pinderfields. But we said at the time it was not going to be big enough.”
Mr O’Malley said redundancies had left staff stretched to breaking point at the trust and he feared further pressure on jobs as £30m is slashed from the budget this year.
He added: “If they cut any more jobs, there’s going to be serious problems.”
Trust bosses said more patients were turning up at Pinderfields from other trust catchment areas - which was not part of the plan when the hospital was built.
Angie Watson, deputy chief executive at Mid Yorkshire, said: “Demand for hospital care is higher than ever and patients for whom we traditionally did not provide care are coming to Mid Yorkshire Hospitals and Pinderfields in particular. We are working with our Primary Care Trusts to manage this increasing demand across all our three hospitals as well as planning to provide more care in the community.”
At a trust board meeting last Thursday, chief executive Julia Squire said the extra beds would help meet A&E targets this year.
She said: “The trust has faced significant growth in demand, particularly from catchment areas not included in the PFI business case, the Leeds population in particular. At the same time, we have reduced beds by 250 since the business case was produced.”
Ann Ballarini, NHS Wakefield District’s Director of Strategy, said: “We continually review all the services provided in and out of hospital based on changes in treatment and changes in the nature of illnesses. We’ve already invested heavily in care closer to home for hospital patients who no longer need acute care, but do require rehabilitation before returning home.
“The additional funding we’ve agreed for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals reflects a change in demand for unplanned medical care, such as non-surgical, in hospital. This will allow the hospitals to adjust their support accordingly and utilise the resources available to them in a flexible way.”
Bosses at the trust have a target of 95 per cent of patients being treated within four hours of arriving at A&E.
Latest figures show Dewsbury and District Hospital is meeting the target with 95.1 per cent and Pontefract General Hospital’s performance was 97.1 per cent. But at Pinderfields only 88.7 per cent of patients were being seen within four hours.