Campaigners to abandon legal bid to stop changes to maternity services

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Campaigners are set to abandon legal efforts to stop major changes to maternity and children’s services at a Yorkshire hospital.

Councillors in Richmondshire had been exploring a judicial review of a decision by health chiefs to axe inpatient paediatric care at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and end consultant-led maternity services.

The move will leave mothers-to-be with higher risk births journeying to Darlington, Middlesbrough, Harrogate or York depending on where they live.

At a meeting on Tuesday, councillors will be advised to drop the judicial review following advice from leading counsel and instead set up a new alliance with counterparts in Darlington to scrutinise services at the town’s memorial hospital.

For many people in Richmonshire needing maternity or paediatric care, this will become the hospital of choice as it lies half a mile further away than the Friarage. Councillors are also expected to continue work examining access to medical care for people in isolated rural areas.

Council leader Coun John Blackie said opposition to the decision by health chiefs would never end but a failed legal bid could cost up to £500,000 in public cash.

“Being realistic very sadly it does mean an end to the campaign to maintain 24/7 consultant led maternity and children’s services at the Friarage,” he said.

Midwife-led services for low-risk births will remain at the Friarage. Changes are expected to be made to services from October.