Changes to urgent and emergency care in the district will come into force next month.
A hospital shake-up will see Pontefract’s A&E department reclassified as a 24-hour Urgent Treatment Centre from Monday, April 9.
Under the change, patients needing emergency treatment for life-threatening conditions will go straight to Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield.
The centre at Pontefract will support people with non-life threatening conditions including illnesses and minor injuries such as sprains, fractures and wounds needing stitches. It will also continue to provide blood and urine tests and x-rays.
Dr Sarah Robertshaw, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “For people who have less serious conditions and are unlikely to need to be admitted to hospital, the Urgent Treatment Centre will offer fast access to the same wide range of specialist tests and treatment that have been available at Pontefract for many years.
“Keeping Pontefract as a 24/7 service for people with urgent health needs means we can make the best use of the facilities and workforce we have in the district.”
The plan has raised fears that the hospital is being “downgraded” and that patients will have to travel for treatment.
But a report to Wakefield Council’s public health and the NHS overview and scrutiny committee in January said the majority of patients attending Pontefract are “appropriate for the service provided there” and less than 10 per cent require transfer to Pinderfields.
Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said community engagement, carried out with independent body Healthwatch, revealed 79 per cent of people surveyed didn’t know Pontefract Hospital was unable to treat life-threatening conditions.
It said there were no specialist staff to treat people with very serious illnesses or injuries. Dr Adam Sheppard, the urgent care lead for the CCG, said: “Most patients using the service shouldn’t notice any difference in the care that is offered other than the sign above the door.”