The recent article by Tim Farron MP made interesting and concerning reading about his rural constituency being badly served by the scarcity of NHS hospital services. The same can be said for many areas of rural Yorkshire, especially North Yorkshire.
Successive governments have produced areas and regions, local authority areas, health service (clinical commissioning group) areas, hospital trust areas, ambulance service areas, most are not co-terminous with each other and few are geographically sensible.
Catterick Garrison opened a military hospital in the early 1970s, which was also used by civilians from Swaledale and Wensleydale. It was very short-lived. Now that the garrison is the largest in Europe, it relies on the Friarage hospital in Northallerton, as do people from a colossal area of remote, isolated communities served very badly by public transport.
Unfortunately, the Friarage is now a satellite of the James Cook hospital in Middlesbrough and, increasingly, fairly minor procedures and most consultations are all carried out in Middlesbrough.
The maternity and paediatric units have closed in Northallerton and there seems to be a permanent threat of closure to the accident and emergency unit.
Already it appears a lot of A&E work has ambulances going direct to Middlesbrough, 60 miles from Garsdale, 34 miles from Reeth, in both cases 12 or 15 miles more than going to Northallerton.
It is only 20 miles from Reeth to Darlington hospital, but that’s in the wrong area, so you can’t be taken there.
Likewise, its shorter to go from Thirsk to York than to Middlesbrough, and the same can be said for residents of Hawes being much closer to Kendal or Lancaster hospitals than they are to Middlesbrough – but alas the administrative ‘lines’ are drawn in the wrong place.
Furthermore, abysmal public transport makes it impossible to get to and from hospital and the cost would be prohibitive even if the service was available.
Even from Thirsk you would find difficulty getting to and from an appointment in Middlesbrough in less than about six hours and it would cost about £26 return. There’s a two-hourly bus to Northallerton costing about £6 return.
And of course, if someone drove you there it would cost an arm and a leg to park at the hospital – and that money is not going into the NHS, but into the coffers of some ‘privatisation’.