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Warning over plans to downgrade Friarage Hospital in Northallerton
COUNCILLORS have warned that controversial proposals to downgrade services at a hospital could be referred to the Health Secretary.
Jim Clark, the chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, made his threat after NHS bosses announced proposals to replace the consultant- led paediatric and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton .
Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group said its preferred option was to replace the consultant-led services with a short-stay paediatric assessment unit and a midwife- led maternity service with full outpatient services and enhanced community services.
Councillor Clark promised that if NHS North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust backed a full public consultation on the proposals, “patients and public across the area will be given every opportunity to make their views known to the committee”.
He said the committee has the ability to refer the matter to the Health Secretary, and said: “Earlier this year, the county council called on all parties to leave no stone unturned in efforts to retain the existing consultant-led paediatric and maternity services at the Friarage Hospital.
“The committee will be playing its part in ensuring this is the case and, if necessary, we will exercise our full powers.”
Bosses at County Durham and Darlington NHS Trust said they were confident that the maternity department at Darlington Memorial Hospital could manage any additional workload if the changes at the Friarage went ahead.
Eight years ago, the same trust downgraded consultantled maternity facilities at Bishop Auckland General Hospital to create a midwifeled unit. The Bishop Auckland unit, which could be a model for the type of unit at the Friarage, handles about 380 babies a year.
Anne Holt, head of midwifery at the trust, said: “The unit plays an important role in our trust-wide maternity service and provides a choice for new mothers alongside consultant-led services at Darlington Memorial Hospital and University Hospital of North Durham (in Durham City).
“It provides safe, one-onone high-quality care for lowrisk births. All methods of pain relief are available, except an epidural service.
“Around 15 per cent of women may require transfer to a consultant-led unit. During a ten-month period in 2011, out of 351 women, 298 had normal deliveries at Bishop Auckland. Fifty-three were transferred.
“We discuss with the ladies whether they would like to transfer to either Darlington or Durham and the transfer journey takes 20 minutes to either site.