Maternity downgrade referred to Minister

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Councillors have made a formal request for the Health Secretary to intervene over the future of maternity care at one of the region’s hospitals.

Controversial measures which would see full maternity care at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton downgraded to a midwife-led unit, leaving pregnant women at risk of complicated births facing travel to Darlington, Middlesbrough, York, Harrogate or even Lancaster to hav e their babies, have provoked a storm of protest.

Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee agreed last month to refer the issue to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Yesterday, a formal letter 
was sent to Mr Hunt from the council.

The letter – which includes 
written evidence from Richmond MP William Hague, who 
supported the referral – says the NHS plans will result in a reduction in the quality of these consultant-led services,” said Coun 
Jim Clark, chairman of the committee.

“The Friarage is widely regarded – quite rightly – as an excellent hospital, providing a first–class service to people across a large rural area who would otherwise have to contemplate travelling long distances for healthcare.

“We believe it would be quite wrong for a decision to be made on this issue without satisfactory alternative options being considered.”

Concerns have been raised about the distances women will have to travel to give birth if the proposal goes ahead but 
health bosses say retaining full services is not clinically sustainable owing to staffing and recruitment issues.