£2.5m hospital fundraisers describe downgrade plans as 'kick in the teeth' (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Friends of threatened Friarage Hospital asked to raise £1m for scanner
FUNDRAISERS who have collected more than £2.5m for a hospital over the past eight years have condemned proposals to downgrade some of its key services as a “kick in the teeth”.
Numerous members of the Friends of the Friarage Hospital, which raised £700,000 towards the building of the paediatric unit in 2006, said they had been left aghast after the NHS trust which triggered the proposals asked it to raise £1m for a new MRI scanner for cancer patients at the hospital.
South Tees NHS Trust, which runs the hospital and instigated a review of its paediatric and maternity services last year, has held several meetings with the charity and is examining where the scanner could be housed in the hospital.
One long-serving member of the charity, who did not wish to be named, said some fundraising stalwarts were “disillusioned and upset”.
He said: “I don’t feel like going out and fundraising.
“We have had the stuffing knocked out of us after raising all that money for the children’s ward a few years ago only to be told the 24-hour operation of the ward is uncertain.
“Now they are asking us to find £1m for a scanner, but I’m just not sure there will be the public appetite to back this, with an impending public consultation exercise over some services at the hospital.”
It is understood some leading members of the charity have also expressed anger over its neutral response to the proposals.
A spokeswoman for the South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust said: “The hospital recognises the valuable contribution of the Friends and there is never a good time for appeals like this, but there is a genuine need for the scanner.”
Charity members spoke out after a meeting of the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) this week, when its chairman, Henry Cronin, sparked further anger among fundraisers by questioning if the plan to introduce a day care paediatric and midwifery-led maternity unit was opposed by an overwhleming majority of residents.
Charity volunteers said the thousands of events held and large sums raised to improve facilities at the Friarage should stand as a testament to how residents valued the threatened services.
Rotary clubs across Hambleton and Richmondshire, which raised more than £100,000 towards equipping the paediatric unit in 2006, said they wanted the CCG to produce a clear vision for the hospital’s future.
John Wilford-Brickwood, of Northallerton Mowbray Rotary Club, said: “We need to know about what the future plans at the Friarage are.”
John Ogbourne, of Wensleydale Rotary Club, which has recently raised £1,000 for an artist to paint murals in the children’s area of the accident and emergency department, said: “It is concerning me if we are throwing money into a lost cause.”
Steve Lamb, chairman of the Friends, said the majority of the group supported the appeal for the scanner.
He said: “While we are most concerned at the possible downgrading of paediatric and maternity services, and I stress possible, the Friends are doing their utmost to ensure that the Friarage has the most up-todate facilities, including an MRI scanner, to prove to those pessimists that the hospital is not closing.”