THE campaign to preserve consultant-led maternity and paediatric units at the Friarage Hospital looks set to continue, despite health bosses approving plans to downgrade services.

Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby clinical commissioning group’s (CCG) members told a meeting at The Golden Lion Hotel, in Northallerton, they had to restrict the paediatric service in the town to a short stay assessment unit and the maternity unit to a midwife-led service in the interests of patient safety.

The meeting heard the group of GPs planned to launch the new services in October, but the new-look maternity service, which will be only used by mothers who do not wish a consultant to be on site, would be unsustainable if it failed to attract 300 deliveries annually.

The CCG’s clinical chief officer, Dr Vicky Pleydell, said a similar service in Kendal, Cumbria, was thriving despite its emergency cases having a longer transfer than mothers attending the Friarage Hospital would face being transferred to James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

Leyburn councillor Tony Duff, one of a number of speakers at the meeting infuriated by the move, said he remained convinced the changes were being made for the convenience of doctors and that it would be simple to recruit staff to maintain the services.

He said: “I would suggest a boot behind a few in the human resources department.

“If you go ahead with this plan there will be a number of babies born in laybys on the A19 or worse.”

Dr Pleydell dismissed claims the CCG had ignored public criticism, saying “a tiny minority” of the 144,000 Hambleton and Richmondshire residents had opposed its scheme.

She said: “The people who know most about what people think is actually GPs. They are the ones who talk to people day to day.”

The CCG’s lay chair, Henry Cronin, said he wanted to reassure people the Friarage Hospital had a long-term future.

After the meeting Councillor Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire’s health scrutiny committee, said there was a “clear possibility” the CCG’s decision would be referred to the Health Secretary.

Coun Clark said he would ask members of his committee on March 14 to decide whether the CCG has properly examined alternative options.

He said: “Some of the questions regarding the future of maternity and paediatric services have not been answered.”

Earlier this week, Richmondshire District Council agreed to consider launching a judicial review in the High Court over the CCG’s decision-making process.