NHS bosses to face questions over temporary A&E closure at Friarage Hospital in Northallerton

NHS bosses will face questions over the temporary closure of a North Yorkshire A&E department to critically-ill patients.

Rishi Sunak MP

The decision to divert emergencies from the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton will be discussed at a public meeting organised by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.

A staffing shortage meant South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust decided it is not safe to continue treating the most seriously-ill people at the hospital.

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Trust bosses said 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.

Warnings have been made that patients in parts of the Yorkshire Dales will face journeys of up to 60 miles to A&E after critical care at the Friarage is suspended from March 27.

Dr Adrian Clements, South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s deputy Chief Executive, and Dr James Dunbar, Friarage Hospital clinical director, will be at the meeting on Friday, March 22, at Northallerton School and Sixth Form College.

Mr Sunak, who will chair the meeting, said: “I am grateful that the hospital’s and Trust's two most senior doctors have agreed to answer constituents’ questions about the worrying situation at the hospital.

“The sudden decision to make these changes at our local hospital has provoked great concern and this will be an opportunity for people to voice those concerns directly to the doctors best placed to answer them.

"We all want the best possible services at the Friarage and the only way to do that is to have a constructive dialogue with the medical team responsible for delivering the services there."

The NHS trust has estimated that up to 12 patients a day will be diverted from the Northallerton hospital.

The Friarage A&E department will be classed as a 24-7 Urgent Treatment Centre during the closure, which will be reviewed in six months’ time.

Announcing the move last month, a trust spokesperson said: "The trust will assess the appropriateness of all 999 and GP emergency activity prior to patients arriving at the Friarage

"All complex critical-care-dependent surgery will be undertaken at James Cook University Hospital, where patients with major trauma and serious illnesses, such as stroke, head or spinal injuries are already treated."

Dr Adrian Clements said: “This meeting provides another opportunity for us to explain to the public why urgent temporary changes to services are being made at the Friarage and to reassure people that the trust is committed to developing a safe, long term and sustainable future for the hospital.

“Once we have stabilised our current services to ensure patient safety, we plan to enter into a full public consultation.

“More information, including a leaflet about the urgent temporary changes, can be found on our website at www.southtees.nhs.uk”

The meeting has been welcome by the leaders of North Yorkshire County Council, Hambleton District Council and Richmondshire District Council.

Councillors Carl Les, Mark Robson and Yvonne Peacock said in a joint statement: “We welcome this opportunity to hold to account those making the decisions about the Friarage.

"We all agree it is a very special hospital serving a special part of North Yorkshire which because of its very rural natures means people are rightly concerned about decent access to their healthcare.”

The meeting will be held at 6.15pm at the school on Grammar School Lane, Northallerton.