'Keep up the fight' for Northallerton's Friarage Hospital, says MP William Hague (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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'Keep up the fight' for Northallerton's Friarage Hospital, says MP William Hague
DAY OF PROTESTS: Three-year-old Maddison Day holds a photograph of herself when she was a newborn baby, at a protest outside the Friarage Hospital
CAMPAIGNERS battling to save under-threat services at a general hospital last night vowed to continue their fight after health bosses formally recommended the downgrading of children’s and maternity units.
Foreign Secretary Mr Hague called it “a serious blow” to the community and urged campaigners to fight on.
The NHS document states that the preferred option of creating a midwife-led maternity unit at the hospital would see more than half of the Friarage’s annual 1,520 maternity admissions having to travel elsewhere, mainly to Darlington Memorial or Middlesbrough’s James Cook University hospitals.
The report, by the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), states the best way of providing paediatric care would be to create a day care unit at the Friarage, meaning hundreds of children admitted overnight annually would also need to seek treatment elsewhere.
But it says if fewer than 300 patients a year chose the new midwifery-led service, the unit would become unsustainable and could close altogther.
However, a CCG spokesman said yesterday that it had discounted any option that would see the removal of paediatric and maternity services from the Friarage.
He said: “Our duty is to commission the safest, most high quality services and clinical evidence tells us this option will allow us to do this, while ensuring we remain within our allocation of funding.”
Mr Hague said urgent work would be needed to develop the option of patients going to other hospitals, particularly James Cook and Darlington.
He said: “The people of Hambleton and Richmondshire need guaranteed assurances that the displacement of patients from the Friarage will not cause intolerable pressures on other hospitals.
“It would be a tragedy if patients who could no longer deliver their babies at the Friarage on grounds of clinical sustainability experienced similar problems elsewhere.”
Jill Moulton, director of planning at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has told North Yorkshire health scrutiny committee the cost of upgrading the paediatric and maternity units at James Cook to cope with the influx of patients and rise in Teesside births would be more than £5m.
Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh said the doctors’ desire to create centres of medical excellence, such as at James Cook, was completely at odds with patients’ need to be treated locally.
Leaders of a nine-month campaign to maintain services at the Friarage said they felt the CCG had “ridden rough-shod” over the views of the patients and clinical care interests to cater for consultant doctors’ needs and avoid additional costs in an NHS trust facing a £19m deficit this year.
The report states that the CCG’s GP Council – made up of doctors from the 22 GP practices in the districts of Hambleton and Richmondshire – scored options to maintain or downgrade the services on a number of measures, of which patient experience was given the joint lowest weight.
Although doctors rated maintaining the services the best for patient safety, clinical effectiveness, patient experience and equity of access, due to its low scores for affordability, sustainability and cost effectivess it was rated the “least clinically preferred option”.
The only measure the GP Council scored the proposed option highest in was costeffectiveness.
Richmondshire District Council leader, Councillor John Blackie, said: “It is an absolutely shocking report, the public engagement exercise before it has been a tick-box exercise and they have not listened to the overwhelming objections to their proposals.”
Councillor Andy Scott, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for health, said: “I would need to look closely at the evidence supporting this change of direction, however, I would be extremely concerned about the centralisation of a service as time-critical and sensitive as maternity.”