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Health minister set to decide Friarage's future
THE future of key services at a general hospital will almost certainly be decided by the Government.
NHS North Yorkshire and York’s board yesterday (Tuesday, October 23) rejected last-ditch appeals from Richmond MP William Hague and North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee to consider maintaining consultant-led paediatric and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton.
The leaders of the scrutiny committee councillors Jim Clark and John Blackie made impassioned appeals to NHS bosses to change plans to offer two options in a public consultation exercise, both of which would see the services downgraded.
Despite having being issued with an ultimatum by the councillors that the proposals would be referred to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, if an option to retain the services was not included the board said it would press ahead with the options favoured by GPs’ body Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group.
It is understood a public consultation exercise over options for a midwifery-led maternity unit and short-stay paediatric children’s assessment unit or for a paediatric outpatient service and midwifery-led maternity service at the hospital will be launched on November 1.
NHS bosses have repeatedly stated they do not believe the existing services at the Friarage are sustainable, even with an extra injection of funds.
Coun Blackie said: “We pleaded with them to include an option to include maintaining the services. We were not able to budge them a single inch.”
The scrutiny of health deputy chairman said the indications were “very strong” that the committee would ask the Department of Health to conduct a review of the proposals.
Mr Hague said he would support a move to refer the decision to the Department of Health, saying its Independent Reconfiguration Panel would look at the proposals objectively.
The committee, which is set to discuss the public consultation exercise on November 9, will call a public meeting in Northallerton in late November or early December to listen to residents’ views.
If the proposals are referred to Whitehall, it is expected NHS North Yorkshire and York will consider whether or not to pause the consultation exercise.
UNISON members employed at the Friarage Hospital will today (Wednesday) run a market stall on Northallerton High Street to urge residents to sign petitions and send Protect Our Services postcards to NHS bosses.