Health Secretary rejects Friarage Hospital review call

Entrance to the Friarage hospital The Friarage Hospital serves about 122,000 people across North Yorkshire and the central Pennines

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Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected calls for a full review into plans to reduce maternity and child services at a North Yorkshire hospital.

The NHS is planning to cut services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, claiming they are unsustainable.

In December, North Yorkshire County Council referred the proposals to the Department of Health.

But Mr Hunt said he supported the view that a public consultation into the plans should be held instead.

The changes to maternity and child services at the Friarage were proposed after a national clinical advisory team report indicated the hospital's paediatric unit was unsustainable.

'Not the end'

The preferred option of NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is to replace overnight children's care at the Friarage with a day care assessment unit, and to have midwife-led maternity services instead of consultant-led.

It would mean pregnant women at risk of complications travelling to hospital in Middlesbrough, 22 miles (35km) away, to give birth.

Announcing his decision, Mr Hunt said as well as the proposal to introduce midwife-led services at the Friarage, other options could also be included for consideration by the public.

Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council's health scrutiny committee, said though he was disappointed at Mr Hunt's decision, the chance to look at other options meant it was "not the end of the road for top quality maternity services" at the hospital.

"By looking at further options we still have the chance to secure the highest quality provision for this large rural area," he said.

A spokeswoman for NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG, said in the light of Mr Hunt's decision, a formal consultation would begin as soon as possible.

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