THE leader of a NHS body overseeing changes to key services at a general hospital has dismissed claims that he has resigned over a row with a councillor.

Henry Cronin, lay chair of Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby clinical commissioning group (CCG), said he would lead a key meeting over the future of maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital, on Thursday (February 27), but would step down next month to pursue other interests.

Mr Cronin, a former chief executive of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Trust, said he informed the CCG’s governing body last month about the decision he made over the Christmas period, well before the leader of Richmondshire District Council Councillor John Blackie called for him to resign.

Mr Cronin complained in October to North Yorkshire County Council that Coun Blackie, who had led the campaign to preserve consultant-led maternity and paediatric services in Northallerton, had breached its code of conduct during a public consultation over the CCG’s proposed changes.

After an investigation cleared Coun Blackie, he accused Mr Cronin of undermining the message he was bringing from the community and urged the CCG leader to step down.

Mr Cronin said there was no relationship between his decision to step down and either the CCG’s decision to launch a midwife-led maternity unit or the call for him to resign.

He said: “People will always put two and two together and make five. The timescales are completely different.

“I will be involved until the end of March, but I will carry on for a bit beyond that if they need me.”

He said he had enjoyed his role with the CCG and that he had listened intently to residents’ opinions over the Friarage and that CCG had incorporated those views in its scheme.

Mr Cronin said: “People in the Hambleton and Richmondshire area of North Yorkshire will still be able to have their babies at the Friarage when it is appropriate.”

Coun Blackie described the timing of Mr Cronin’s announcement, ahead of the CCG confirming its decision over the Friarage services at a meeting in The Golden Lion Hotel, Northallerton, tomorrow (Thursday, February 27), as “absolutely bizarre”.

He said: “Most people will be able to add two and two and make four.

“He needs to be there in the coming months to be held to account for this decision. He could have chosen a more opportune time to resign.”