NHS bosses have dismissed concerns that inflationary pressures could derail a move to create a regional specialist elective surgery centre, saying after years of losing key services to large-scale medical centres Northallerton’s Friarage could be branded Yorkshire’s fastest growing hospital.

A meeting of North Yorkshire’s health and wellbeing board heard councillors South Tees NHS leaders and even a health watchdog agree there had been “a sea change” at the general hospital where staff and residents have unsuccessfully battled to retain services such as its accident and emergency department.

The meeting heard with a coming surgical hub, compared to a few years ago, the Friarage’s offer for patients had been “transformed” and was in “completely in a different space” from an extended period of widespread fears that it was being run down by the NHS with a view to close it.

In 2012, the trust became the focal point of residents’ fury as MP William Hague and thousands of people marched through the town opposing the downgrading of the Friarage’s maternity and paediatric units, but numerous other services there were also subsequently closed.

Nevertheless, the meeting was told moving trauma services away from the Friarage to centralise them in Hull, Leeds and Middlesbrough, had revolutionised the care patients could expect.

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Lucy Tulloch, a deputy director at South Tees NHS Trust, said expanding the range of elective services at the Friarage had become a key part of the trust’s clinically-led approach and had seen the creation of a range of new services at the hospital over the last three years.

How the new surgical hub at the Friarage Hospital will look

How the new surgical hub at the Friarage Hospital will look

These include a rapid diagnostic centre, a one-stop shop for patients with concerning non-cancer symptoms, a “scaled up” eye unit, a joint replacement service and a renal dialysis unit, reducing the need for patients to travel to Middlesbrough or Darlington.

The trust has also opened an endoscopy and urology diagnostic hub, boosting the number of procedures that take place at the hospital, providing access to some of the latest procedures, such as the use of the miniature “pill cam” to examine the stomach.

While the trust has previously said recruiting medics to work in Northallerton was tough as it was viewed as a backwater, the meeting was told a “cutting edge” academic centre launched at the hospital was as important as the buildings and services being developed there as it would help sustain the workforce.

Further staff were set to be attracted to work at the hospital with the construction of a surgical hub set to start this month, which the meeting heard would more than double the number of planned operations the hospital carries out each year.

The Friarage Hospital, Northallerton

The Friarage Hospital, Northallerton

When pressed over if inflationary pressures could threaten its completion, Ms Tulloch said the trust was “very aware” of rising costs surrounding the development and had undertaken “significant due diligence” to ensure that it had accounted for rising costs.

Orthapaedic surgeon Andrew Port told the meeting it was intended to develop further elective services for orthopaedics, opthalmology, plastic surgery, spinal surgery, general surgery, urology, pain management, ears, nose and throat, gynaecology and dental surgery.

Mr Port added: “The Friarage now constitutes the fastest-growing hospital certainly in North Yorkshire and potentially within the wider Yorkshire footprint. The Friarage remains an absolutely vital hospital, not just for our local residents in North Yorkshire, but across the wider area.”

Ashley Green, chief executive of Healthwatch North Yorkshire, said: “It’s really exciting. It’s good to have a good news story about hospitals and trusts, so it’s really welcome.

“We hear a lot about the frustrations of the public not having a local hospital close to them and having to go to other hospitals to service their needs, so having a local hospital which is expanding its services is a really good news story.”