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Friarage battle: consultation delay labelled "bizarre"
THE official public consultation on the controversial plan to downgrade children’s services at one of the region’s major hospitals has been put on hold.
Tonight’s announcement followed confirmation that retaining the current position would not be among the options for the future of the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.
The board of NHS North Yorkshire and York decided earlier this week it would not include a choice to retain a consultant-led paediatric and maternity service at the hospital in the formal consultation process.
As a result the NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CGC) has declared it is delaying the public consultation, which had been expected to start next month.
It is almost certain that North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee will refer the consultation process to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for review.
And the CCG says it now plans to wait until it has received a response from the Secretary of State before it begins the consultation process.
The group’s chief clinical officer designate, Dr Vicky Pleydell, claimed the delay was “in the interests of preserving precious public funds and the public’s time and effort”.
She added: “The issues around children’s and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital are complex and our duty, as commissioners, is to ensure they are safe and sustainable for the future.
“We are fully committed to working with the scrutiny of health committee and members of the public to ensure they understand the problems faced at the Friarage and the options for solving them.”
However the CCG’s decision was immediately condemned as “bizarre” by one of the leading campaigners against any downgrade, Richmondshire District Council leader John Blackie.
“I am very surprised they are taking this line,” he said.
“Clearly the rules for referring on to the Secretary of State are laid down by statute – and it’s difficult to refer a consultation document if you don’t know what’s on it.”
He added: “All we know for sure is what’s not on it – which is maintaining services as they are. What we don’t know is the fine detail of the options they are putting forward. These are vital details we need to see.”