Cottage hospital in North Yorkshire to be turned into specialist centre for frail and elderly

Health campaigners have expressed delight after NHS bosses revealed plans to transform a much-loved cottage hospital into a specialist centre for the frail and elderly, following years of uncertainty hanging over the facility.

The Friary Hospital in Richmond

North Yorkshire NHS clinical commissioning group said South Tees NHS Trust was developing detailed proposals to enhance care provision for some of Richmondshire’s most vulnerable residents at The Friary Hospital in Richmond.

Fears had mounted the NHS would close The Friary alongside other moves to centralise health provision, particularly after plans were unveiled to build a world-first combined military and civilian medical centre in Catterick Garrison.

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The Friary dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries and was originally the Richmond School headmaster's house before it was converted into a health facility in 1999 to replace the town's original cottage hospital, Victoria Hospital, which had opened 100 years earlier. The old Victoria Hospital building is now a funeral director's offices.

Campaigners said protecting The Friary’s palliative care beds was vital due to the great distances Yorkshire Dales residents would face going to the alternatives in Darlington and Middlesbrough.

A Richmondshire District Council meeting heard while plans for an Catterick Integrated Care Campus to serve the whole of Richmondshire had progressed to a stage where a 2023 opening date had been scheduled, NHS bosses had struck a deal with the owners of The Friary building to renovate it.

While some key services, such as X-rays, are set to be moved to the Catterick centre, NHS bosses told councillors that would create room for more comprehensive services for the frail, including a continued palliative care and a bed base for frail elderly patients.

The meeting was told in addition, the GP practice at Quakers Lane, Richmond, which has struggled for space, would co-locate with The Friary GP surgery in the Richmond building.

NHS bosses said the Catterick centre, building work on which is set to start next year, would be operate from 8am to 8pm and be “truly transformational” with the NHS and Ministry of Defence catering for a significant rebasing of personnel and their dependents between this year and 2031. The population of Catterick is due to rise from 20,624 to 2019 to 29,164 in just 11 years.

The MOD and NHS are developing a model of care which they say will not only address the population spike but also shift organisational boundaries and create a valued asset in the community.

NHS managers say politically, there is acute national interest in the £55m development, particularly related to better healthcare for veterans, in integrated services and in public services working together to serve populations with greater efficiency.

Councillors told the meeting they were both surprised and excited by the developments.

Coun John Amsden, for Leyburn, said: “I’m glad to hear the Friary is going to stay because that was the biggest concern. The CCG has changed their tune a little or found some money from somewhere to continue it.”

After the meeting the council’s chairman, Richmond member Coun Clive World: “This is a relief because I thought it was going to be closed. Older people will be able to come back to Richmond so their friends and families can visit them.”

Coun Jill McMullon, for Hawes and High Abbotside, added: “It’s an important facility for residents in the Upper Dales and very highly thought of, so it’s fantastic that The Friary has a future. The population is getting more elderly, so the fact they will able to go there is very good news.”