Council watchdog calls for answers over the future for Northallerton's Friarage Hospital after temporary A&E closure

The temporary closure of a North Yorkshire A&E department to critically-ill patients will be discussed by a council health watchdog.

County Councillor Jim Clark.
County Councillor Jim Clark.

Councillors will question NHS bosses on their decision to divert A&E patients from Northallerton's Friarage Hospital at a meeting tomorrow (Friday).

The suspension of critical care at the hospital means around 10 per cent of A&E patients currently treated in Northallerton will be taken to James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough or Darlington Memorial Hospital, both around 30 minutes away by car.

North Yorkshire County Council's Scrutiny of Health Committee will ask what the long term plans are for the hospital amid fears that the closure could become permanent.

Staffing shortages meant South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust decided it was not safe to keep the A&E open to the most seriously-ill patients.

The temporary closure will take effect from March 27 and will be reviewed in six months' time, trust bosses said.

Councillor Jim Clark, who chairs the scrutiny committee, said: "The concern is that these temporary changes, triggered by patient safety concerns, become permanent changes, as we have seen in the past."

At tomorrow's meeting a presentation will be given by Simon Cox, representing North Yorkshire's three Clinical Commissioning Groups, Dr Adrian Clements, of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Lucy Tulloch, service manager at Friarage Hospital.

Staffing shortages at Friarage Hospital were first raised in summer 2017 when the trust was struggling to recruit enough anaesthetists, and bosses have been unable to find a permanent solution.

Coun Clark said: “The committee will be interested to hear what the long term plan is and when the critical care services and interventions will be returned to the Friarage.

"This is clearly a very difficult time for the NHS locally, regionally and nationally. Financial pressures and workforce shortages are forcing changes to be made, which would otherwise not happen.

"In the past week, I have also been informed that breast oncology outpatient services at Scarborough Hospital are being closed to new referrals and that GPs in Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby will no longer be contracted to provide enhanced minor injury services.”

A public meeting has also been called to discuss the temporary Friarage closure by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.