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Survey reveals at-risk maternity unit at Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, is viable
A SURVEY of hospitals around the country demonstrates that small consultant- led maternity services, such as the at-risk unit at the Friarage in North Yorkshire, have a “sustainable and bright” future, community leaders say.
The research examining 19 of the UK’s smallest hospitals was conducted by Richmondshire District Council amid a huge public outcry over the plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric services at the Northallerton hospital.
The hospitals were chosen because they handle between 150 and 1,600 births a year – similar to the Friarage’s 1,250.
They also run 24-hour, seven-daysa- week consultant-led maternity and children’s services.
According to councillors, the responses show that the consultant-led units used varying work and staffing models.
Most hospitals reported that they had no problems recruiting – a difficulty identified by NHS bosses running the North Yorkshire hospital.
Other stated reasons for the transfer of services to The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough – such as ensuring the consultants maintained their skills with small patient numbers – had been overcome by innovative thinking and a determination to retain local services, the report found.
Councillor John Robinson, chairman of the scrutiny committee that oversaw the research, said: “We are pleased so many small hospitals (17) returned their surveys and are taken aback by the results, which clearly demonstrate that there can be a safe, sustainable and bright future for maternity and children’s services in small hospitals – including the Friarage.”
Council leader John Blackie, who has led the opposition to the downgrading of the Friarage, said: “What this key research shows is that where there is a willingness to retain local services there is a way.
“If these other small hospitals can do so, the question needs to be answered, why can’t they?”
Dr Vicky Pleydell, shadow accountable officer at Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said she welcomed the council’s study, which would be reviewed alongside other research.
She said: “Following this review, the member GP practices in the CCG will assess the options available and a recommendation will be made about the most appropriate way forward.”
The options will then be put before the board of the NHS North Yorkshire and York primary care trust in September for approval, before a further consultation process which will conducted ahead of a decision in January.