Huddersfield’s new £15 million A&E may not open until the New Year, a council meeting was told.
The new emergency department at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary had been due to open in October but there is still no date for when it will take its first patients.
Health bosses told a meeting of the Calderdale and Kirklees Joint Health Scrutiny Committee that a series of checks to such as gas, electricity, air conditioning, ventilation, doors and even furnishings were still ongoing and that any “remedial works” would be carried out.
A public open day was held in September to showcase the new building and councillors said they were disappointed the A&E was behind schedule – and they weren’t being told why.
Councillors repeatedly pressed health bosses but were left frustrated by their refusal to give detailed answers.
Clr Mike Barnes (Lab, Skircoat) told the Huddersfield Town Hall meeting: “It does seem rather strange that we are sitting here on November 7 and the brand new site cannot be used.
“I am just getting the feeling there is something we are not being told.”
Frustrated: Clr Mike Barnes and Clr Beverley Addy at the meeting
Responding to the questions, Dr Anna Basford, deputy chief executive at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our top priority is that the quality and safety of the building is absolutely as we require it to be before we open for public services.
“We have a fabulous building. It has a lot of complex infrastructure within it to do with gases, water and ventilation and some of the areas that we also need to do checks on are less complex – the right doors, the right fittings, the right furnishings – because once we open you can’t shut part of an A&E department.
“We have invested significant public money into the building and it must be 100% compliant with our stringent safety and quality requirements. We have been working through that.
“We had planned to open at the beginning of October, that is correct. We are now, broadly speaking, at the beginning of November. So, yes, that is behind schedule but we are placing priority on certain assurances.”
Dr Basford said an update would be provided in mid-November and added: “We are running into a time when we often see high volume and demand coming into A&Es. We will balance the demand and the best time to open.
“Our existing A&E is continuing to provide a full range of services so in terms of any impact on availability of services for our population there isn’t one.”
Dr Anna Basford at the meeting
Clr Beverley Addy (Lab, Colne Valley) asked for “specifics” and said: “What is affecting the quality and safety issues specifically that we are not even going to get a date before the end of November?”
Emergency department consultant Dr Mark Davies, clinical lead for the A&E, replied: “There are ongoing checks and ongoing remedial works to a number of different aspects of the building, some of which we weren’t expecting, but we still need to get over them before we can be assured the building is safe for patients.”
Clr Addy pressed on: “To hold up for eight weeks possibly more into the New Year. That suggests there’s something bigger than the doors and something that (can’t) be fixed easily. Does that take us into the New Year? Is that three or four months down the line?
“Is there something we need to know? It’s a major thing, months behind. Checks and balances and all the finishing off are built into a timescale originally. What specific areas are being looked at and revised?”
Dr Basford stepped in and replied: “Absolutely understand the points you are making and your frustrations.
“There are a range of issues. I know there is an ask for a lot more detail and we will be providing that update in mid-November when we have completed the current range of checks.”
Clr Addy pressed on. “There’s nothing specific in those answers. If there’s something major we want to know now.”
Dr Basford: “I would reiterate we will provide a full update in the middle of this month around the works and our projected opening date.”
Clr Barnes said: “I think we are not going to get the answers today.”
Committee chairman Clr Liz Smaje (Con, Birstall) wanted to pin down a date for when the Trust would make an announcement and sought an assurance that all questions would be answered.
Dr Basford said: “We are looking at by the end of next week to have clarity.”
Clr Smaje replied: “So we will look forward to an email by the end of next week from yourselves which we will circulate to all the committee.”
The one answer the committee did receive clarity on was about finances. The Trust confirmed that any extra costs of remedial works would be met by the contractor.