Campaigners battling against the closure of the accident and emergency unit at the Friarage Hospital have been granted permission to challenge the decision in the High Court.
Lawyers for the Save Friarage Hospital group appeared in court today to seek permission to launch a judicial review against South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to suspend A&E services at the Northallerton hospital and to replace this with an urgent care treatment centre.
The request was granted and a judicial review hearing will take place in late July 2019.
Helen Smith, the public law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Newcastle office, who is representing the Save Friarage Hospital group, said: “Our clients have long-held concerns regarding the suspension of A&E services at the Friarage and we strongly believe that the process used to come to such conclusions should be reviewed.
“There are a host of extremely worrying factors regarding this move, particularly in how it may have a major impact across the region as a whole.
“While we appreciate the NHS is facing difficult challenges at present, it is vital that any decisions are always made with the best interests of patients in mind and there is appropriate consultation with the public and other stakeholders.
“Our clients does not want be in this position but feel that they have little option because of how they feel the Trust and CCG have made these changes to hospital services without appreciating the full impact.
“It is welcome that the judicial review will proceed and we are determined to work with our clients to ensure that their voices are heard on this very serious matter.”
The Save Friarage Hospital Campaign group believe that the temporary suspension of A&E service at the Friarage has led to the loss of hospital beds in both the emergency ward and the intensive treatment unit.
It is also concerned the move will have a particular impact on both the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Darlington Memorial Hospital.
Holly Wilkinson, from the Save Friarage Hospital group, added: “One of the most concerning aspects of this recent move is that it could potentially put lives at risk – and that is simply unacceptable.
“We have campaigned long and hard on this issue and it is very welcome that our concerns are being treated seriously.
“The green light for the judicial review is great news and we hope this will all ultimately lead to the decision to suspend A&E services being overturned. This move simply has to be reconsidered.”
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement issued this evening: “The judge determined that the only grounds for the review to proceed is to look at whether consultation should have taken place with the public or the local authority prior to the decision on the urgent temporary change and if due consideration had been given to disadvantaged groups.
“The judge refused permission for the review to proceed on the grounds of irrationality and that we had failed to conduct sufficient enquiries before taking the decision.
“We are involved in constructive dialogue with those bringing the review.
“We have always stated that it is our intention to ensure that there is a full public consultation to agree on a long term, safe and sustainable future service model for the Friarage Hospital and this is scheduled to begin on September 13 2019.”