Hague to address maternity protest marchers

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ROLLING road closures are to be implemented across North Yorkshire’s county town today, with hundreds of protesters set to attend a rally over proposed changes to children’s and maternity services at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital.

The rally is due to begin at County Hall at 2pm, with the Foreign Secretary and MP for Richmond William Hague among the speakers addressing the crowds before they march.

Mr Hague has already expressed his “deep concern” over the plans to move the services to the James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough.

About 1,200 babies are born at the Friarage each year, with the hospital’s area including around 150,000 residents. Critics say the move would leave Yorkshire Dales mothers-to-be with what will be one of the longest journeys to access key services in England

Coun Carl Les, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for chief executive services, said: “It is not possible to predict for how long the rolling road closures will be in place, because clearly that depends entirely on the number of marchers.

“However, by controlling the traffic with a rolling road closure, the council will ensure that disruption is kept to a minimum.”

There has been a growing backlash against the plans, which follow a review by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) and went out for a three-month public engagement in March. The first of the series of nine public meetings began in April at the Farmers Auction Mart in Thirsk.

All meetings are being hosted by leading GPs, hospital clinicians and senior NHS managers from the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Richmondshire District Councillors voted unanimously in December to support a proposal to advise NHS health chiefs that it “considers it essential for the peace of mind and well being of residents” that the services stay at the Friarage.

Earlier this month, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group made a presentation to an extraordinary meeting of the council.

Following the public consultation, a paper about the proposed changes is set to be presented to the board of the Primary Care Trust on July 24.

joe.shute@ypn.co.uk