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Friarage campaigners head south on health mission
COUNCILLORS campaigning against the downgrading of services a North Yorkshire hospital are planning to visit small hospitals in the South-West to find out how they have avoided similar cuts.
The GP-led Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is due to take over much of NHS spending in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby next April, has announced proposals to downgrade children’s and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton , which covers a huge swathe of North Yorkshire.
The CCG has argued that a full 24 hours a day service is unviable, because of the difficulty of recruiting and retaining senior medical staff.
The preferred option of the CCG is to convert the children’s department into an enhanced day unit and turn the maternity department into a midwife-led unit.
This would mean sick children who need to see a specialist at weekends and evenings would be taken to The James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, and only women expecting straightforward births would be allowed to give birth at the Friarage.
While the plans will be the subject of a full public consultation, a group of councillors from Richmondshire District Council has announced it is planning a fact-finding mission to the South-West to examine similar hospitals that still have full-service children’s and maternity services.
John Blackie, Richmondshire District Council leader, said the group planned to visit Yeovil Hospital, Dorset County Hospital and Barnstaple Hospital.
“All of them are small hospitals, serving rural areas which have thriving maternity and paediatric units with a bright future,” said Coun Blackie, who also sits on North Yorkshire County Council’s health and well-being board.
“We want to meet consultants, midwives and managers and bring back a report which we can feed into the public consultation process,” he added.
Coun Blackie said last week’s report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which called for smaller maternity units to be replaced by larger “super-units” staffed 24 hours a day by specialists, “does not seem to give any account for rurality in its conclusion.
I wonder whether they would consider 60 miles to be a safe distance for any expectant mum to have to travel to have a baby delivered by a consultant”.