EFFORTS by health chiefs to assuage fears over a massive shake up of debt-ridden health services in North Yorkshire were dismissed last night in the wake of a pledge to keep open all the county’s district general hospitals.
NHS North Yorkshire and York also ruled out moving to a single maternity and paediatric unit for the whole of the county.
The statement came in response to concerns raised after the Yorkshire Post exclusively revealed details of a “long list” of potential controversial cuts being considered by health chiefs.
Leaked proposals included services at Scarborough’s hospital being severely curtailed, with the downgrading of the town’s maternity service and moving high-risk births to York, closing the town’s accident and emergency unit at night and providing more emergency or unplanned treatment in York.
Other options included changes to hospital care in Harrogate which could see services move to York or Leeds and closing minor injury units, reconfiguring community hospitals in Ripon and Whitby and shutting St Monica’s in Easingwold.
Yesterday, NHS North Yorkshire and York’s chief executive, Christopher Long, said: “The leaders of NHS organisations across North Yorkshire and York have jointly commissioned management consultants KPMG to help us develop a long-term strategy to return the health economy to a stable financial footing.
“That strategy is currently in development and some details of early stage discussions have recently been made public.”
He said a meeting of NHS leaders from across the county on Thursday agreed to “clarify a few points in response to concerns that have been raised locally”.
“As part of this long-term strategy, we are not planning to close any district general hospitals and we will not be proposing to move to a single maternity and paediatric unit for North Yorkshire,” he said.
“Importantly, there will be a continued provision of accident and emergency and maternity services in Scarborough.”
He also said the strategy would look to reduce the number of patients who were being admitted to hospital.
“We will be looking to change how we use our community hospitals and how we use community health services most effectively – helping patients remain in their own homes and reducing the need for hospital admissions.
“This strategy will, over time, enable a reduction in the number of beds within our acute hospitals in line with demand and will therefore improve the environment and the quality of care for our most acutely ill patients,” he said.
But last night Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, warned the statement would offer “little comfort” to residents in North Yorkshire and was only ruling out options which “had not been suggested in the first place”.
Coun Clark said: “They talk about saving maternity services in Scarborough but do not say anything about the future of consultant-led services and it offers no comfort for community hospitals.
“As far as I can see this is just a holding statement.
“The people of North Yorkshire will continue to be very concerned about the future of their health service and these are the biggest changes being proposed for the NHS in North Yorkshire since the NHS was created.”
In his statement, Mr Long said the shortlisted options was being refined in partnership with NHS leaders across the county.
It was planned to publish and discuss the options at a meeting of NHS North Yorkshire and York’s board on January 22.
No further statements were planned until then.
“I want to be very clear that should any of the suggestions require significant service change then the organisations involved are committed to formally engage and consult with patients, the public and all relevant partners,” Mr Long added.
Last month Mr Long said the long list would be narrowed down, based on priorities in order of quality, affordability and accessibility.
Work had looked at how out-of-hospital care could be better used and how hospitals could change to develop more specialist centres of excellence and reduce reliance on beds.
The county’s NHS is due to run up a deficit of £19m by March and has generated debts of more than £100m in the last decade.