Campaign wants radical steps to save local hospital services

CAMPAIGNERS have demanded a radical change in approach to ensure key NHS services remain in North Yorkshire’s county town after witnessing at first hand the success of similar battles nationwide.

NHS officers are adamant the shake-up of services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton is necessary as demand dwindles.

It was announced in January that in-patient paediatric care and a full maternity service could be axed. The plans drawn up following a review would mean the majority of women would travel to Middlesbrough, Harrogate, York or Darlington to give birth.

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But Richmondshire District Council’s leader John Blackie claimed lessons can be learnt from campaigns launched elsewhere in the country which were successful in preserving local healthcare.

He was among a delegation who visited Horton General Hospital in Banbury, where maternity services had been under threat five years ago.

The delegation included the chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee, Coun Jim Clark, and a member of Richmond MP William Hague’s research team, along with NHS representatives.

Coun Blackie admitted funding would need to be secured from the Strategic Health Authority to ensure that a full maternity service continues at the Friarage Hospital. Horton General Hospital was handed a £1.4m financial lifeline to ensure the full services continued, but Coun Blackie was adamant the costs in North Yorkshire would be less.

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He said: “People deserve to have good quality health provision close at hand, and there is a very strong feeling among the public to keep full maternity services at the Friarage Hospital. But there needs to be a willingness to ensure this is done, and I do believe there needs to be a change in mindset. If Horton General Hospital can do it, then so can we.”

NHS officials say services must be streamlined, though as many services as possible will be maintained at Friarage Hospital.