York & North Yorkshire

Northallerton Friarage Hospital maternity unit to be downgraded

Friarage Hospital
Image caption The proposals would mean women at risk of a complicated birth would have to travel to Middlesbrough

Plans to downgrade maternity services at a North Yorkshire hospital will go ahead, the Health Secretary confirmed.

Jeremy Hunt agreed to review plans to switch from a consultant to midwife-led service at Northallerton's Friarage Hospital at the request of North Yorkshire County Council.

After an initial assessment, he said the proposals, which led to protests including a petition, should go ahead.

The council said the decision was "disappointing".

The Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the change from consultant to midwife-led services was in the best interest of patients.

It means pregnant women or children with complicated medical conditions would have to use the James Cook University Hospital, located 22 miles (35km) away in Middlesbrough.

'Safer services'

The plans, first announced in 2011, attracted strong opposition including a 10,000-signature petition and marches.

Mr Hunt had rejected a full review of the proposals in 2013 but agreed to refer it again to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel in April.

Panel chairman Lord Ribeiro said: "The quality of patient care has been our primary concern and after considering the matter carefully we believe these changes will ensure the best care for local women and children."

Councillor Jim Clark, chair of the Conservative-controlled county council's scrutiny of health committee, said he had been confident it had made a strong case for a full review.

Image caption William Hague MP joined protestors against the plans at a march in Northallerton in 2012

"This decision will greatly disappoint all those mothers-to-be and families across Hambleton and Richmondshire who expressed their concerns over the proposals," he said.

Mr Clark said it was now clear the council had to accept the decision.

Vicky Pleydell, chief clinical officer at the CCG, said: "We hope that people who have had concerns about these plans will be reassured by the Secretary of State's decision based on independent clinical advice, and are now confident that this is absolutely the right thing to do.

"This change is supported by all of the local doctors and midwives and we know this will provide safer, better services for local mothers and children which will last into the future."

The changes will be implemented from October.

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