A battle to save Friary Community Hospital has started, councillors have declared, amid concern that NHS bosses plan to close it within five years.
Despite Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby clinical commissioning group (CCG) stating the future of the hospital in Richmond is yet to be decided, councillors say evidence to the contrary is mounting.
A Richmondshire District Council meeting heard the GPs’ surgery at the Queens Road private finance initiative building had been told its lease would not be renewed and plans to redevelop that area of the premises had been shelved to await the remainder of the premises becoming vacant.
Councillors also claimed patients who could be treated at the Friary were now being sent to hospitals in Darlington, Middlesbrough, Northallerton, Bishop Auckland and Barnard Castle instead.
The debate came just days after the CCG’S chief officer Janet Probert told members of the authority that her body had a duty to review the NHS lease on the Friary “to ensure we are spending money in the right way”.
Mrs Probert had told members: “I have one pot of money and what I spend on buildings, equipment and staff all come out of the same pot.”
Councillor John Blackie said Mrs Probert’s statements and other evidence had made it “quite plain and obvious that the writing is on the wall” for the future of the Friary, which has an 18-bed ward offering rehabilitation, palliative and acute illness care.
He said: “There is no need for challenging whether it fulfils its purpose, it does brilliantly.”
The authority’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock said the Richmondshire community viewed the Friary – which is used by 11 doctors’ practices and where South Tees NHS Trust works jointly with North Yorkshire social services to provide an intermediate care facility – as “vital”.
She said the Friary as an NHS beds base in Richmondshire and its services, such as therapy sessions and outpatient clinics, were much prized, particularly by residents living furthest from other hospitals.
Cllr Peacock said she would write to the CCG to highlight the impact the Friary’s loss would have on the district.
She said: “This is a big concern for many people. We have got to keep a very watchful brief and make our views known. If it wasn’t there after 2023 it would be quite devastating.”
Councillor Linda Curran added with the GPs moving out the building would it would leave the Friary “half-empty”, while and patients were being sent elsewhere for services the Friary could offer, leaving residents with “a real battle to keep it”.
The councillors’ call to arms follows the decisions of the same CCG and trust leading to the closure of the Lambert Memorial Hospital, in Thirsk, despite a determined campaign to retain the facility.