DOCTORS behind plans to downgrade paediatric and maternity units at a general hospital have been urged to see how hospitals in the West Country have maintained the key services.
North Yorkshire health leaders fighting a plan change the 24-hour consultant–led services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, have spent three days investigating how hospitals in Devon, Dorset and Somerset run their units, despite having low numbers of patients.
The GP-run Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CGC), which is leading the proposals, has insisted there is no viable way of sustaining the services at the Friarage, partly due to problems recruiting consultants to run them.
Councillor John Blackie said visits to North Devon Hospital in Barnstaple, Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester and Yeovil District Hospital revealed many of the reasons forwarded by the CCG to support its plan at the Friarage could be overcome.
He said the North Yorkshire delegation found “a huge appetite” to provide the services on a 24-hour basis and that by designing bespoke rotas of their consultants, the use of speciality doctors, and clinical research graduates from local universities they had overcome a shortage of middle grade practitioners.
The Richmondshire District Council leader, who is deputy chairman of the North Yorkshire Scrutiny of Health Committee, said the very recent and past experience of all three West Country hospitals was that there are no problems in recruiting consultants they needed to sustain safe services.
Coun Blackie said: “Everyone from consultants, through senior management to GPs and local people believe that moving them to hospitals in larger cities would hugely disadvantage the local communities.
“Their consultants and senior managers are ever willing to be flexible in overcoming new challenges, and their sheer determination and dedication to local people is to be admired.”
The report will be forwarded to the Secretary of State for Health if the CCG’s plan is referred to him by the scrutiny committee in the coming weeks.
A spokeswoman for NHS North Yorkshire and York, which will hand over the management of health services budgets to the CCG next year, said the report did not compare like with like.
Dr Vicky Pleydell, clinical chief officer (designate) at the CCG said: “We welcome the council’s research and will of course review it alongside the significant amount of research we have already undertaken.”