From yesterday, the seven-days-a-week GP Out of Hours service in Catterick, which is run between 6pm and 8am at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, was being moved to the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, where a similar service already exists.
The move follows a fire risk assessment by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation at the Barracks which found the majority of emergency lighting in the building was substandard, making the building unsafe to use.
Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor John Blackie said he suspected the relocation amounted to “closure by stealth”. He criticised health authorities for not committing to when the service would be re-established at Catterick, and its failure to relocate it closer by temporarily.
“We’re talking about transferring two rooms, some drugs and a place where a doctor can sleep,” he said. “We have a community hospital in Richmond where it should have been based anyway. In the absence of any concrete details on when it will be reopened I have to be very suspicious that this is going to be permanent.”
But Jo Harding, lead Nurse at Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which commissions the service, said the service would be restored locally.
“Following this unanticipated development, we are currently working hard with Harrogate & District NHS Foundation Trust, the providers of the service, to re-establish, as soon as possible, a long-term safe solution in the Richmond area - which includes Catterick and Colburn,” she said.
Staff based at Catterick will work from the Friarage Hospital in the interim, while home visits are unaffected by the move.
Ms Harding admitted the extra distance that patients have to travel will be a problem for some, but if anyone is unable to make their own way to the Friarage arrangements will be made at no cost to the patient, she said.