WILLIAM Hague said he is hopeful a controversial plan to change services at a hospital will be fully reviewed, after holding talks with the Health Secretary and a panel examining the proposals.

The Richmond MP said he remains “extremely optimistic” that Jeremy Hunt will order NHS service change advisors the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) to start from scratch over maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton.

It is expected Mr Hunt will make an announcement over Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby clinical commissioning group’s (CCG) proposal in the coming days.

Should a full IRP review be ordered, its conclusions would not be expected before the autumn, at the earliest, setting back the CCG’s plan to improve services, which have been described by NHS bosses as unsustainable, partly due to staffing issues.

A spokesman for Mr Hague said: “Mr Hague has made strong representations about this issue which affects his constituency.

“This has all been done in the correct way. The IRP is fully independent and we await their conclusions."

A Department of Health spokeswoman declined to comment directly on Mr Hague’s intervention, but said the IRP process was independent.

Dr Vicky Pleydell, clinical chief officer of the CCG, said: “We are awaiting the response of the Secretary of State and have to keep faith with the independence of the IRP.”

Councillor John Blackie, who has led a campaign against the changes, said Mr Hague’s intervention followed a number of expectant mothers being turned away from the James Cook University Hospital as its maternity department was full.

He said in recent days, mothers had informed him they had been sent to the Friarage to give birth, where the CCG hopes to replace the consultant-led service with one led by midwives.

Cllr Blackie said: “It is astonishing the James Cook University Hospital, where it has been suggested mothers wanting consultants at hand should go by the CCG, has not got the capacity now.”

South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust and Darlington Memorial Hospital have both previously stated they would have sufficient capacity to take an expected upsurge in expectant mothers, as it is believed many would not choose to give birth in the CCG’s proposed midwife-led unit.

A South Tees spokeswoman said: “Occasionally James Cook is full, but when it is we would use both of our sites to ensure the safety of both mothers and babies.”