Richmondshire District Council’s opposition leader is calling on the authority to show unanimity in pressing for a general hospital’s Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) to be kept open 24 hours a day following the closure of its accident and emergency department.
Conservative councillor Yvonne Peacock is to put a notice of motion to a full meeting of Richmondshire District Council next week that the authority makes strong representation to Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) the Friarage Hospital unit should not be closed overnight.
The call follows the CCG and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust launching a 12-week public consultation last month to shape the future of key services at the Northallerton infirmary.
NHS bosses behind the consultation say a shortage of key emergency staff has affected the trust’s ability to provide safe 24-hour, high quality accident and emergency, anaesthetic overnight cover and critical care services from the hospital.
The consultation options include replacing the emergency department with a 24-hour UTC dealing with about 90 per cent of urgent and emergency patients attending the hospital, which is the same model that has been in operation since the accident and emergency department was closed in March due to patient safety concerns.
The alternative option in the consultation would also see replacing the emergency department with a UTC, but one which is closed between midnight and 8am. NHS bosses have questioned whether keeping the UTC open overnight would be the best use of resources.
Cllr Peacock, who represents Bainbridge on the council, said it was vital that the district council gave its full support for the motion to illustrate the how important a 24-hour UTC was to residents and also to draw a line in the sand to stop services at the hospital being downgraded.
She said: “I am appalled that this proposal to cut the hours down to 16 has come about. The chipping away of services would probably see the opening hours cut back further in the coming years. People need to be absolutely sure of being seen whatever time of day or night.”
Cllr Peacock said by limiting the critical care unit’s opening hours the NHS would create uncertainty in the minds of many people and those who were not certain they would get seen would go elsewhere, further eroding the viability of the unit.
She said: “Although we lost the accident and emergency department, the urgent treatment centre has been working very well.
“When you are in outlying areas and when the GP surgeries are closed from 5.30pm on a Friday to 8.30am on a Monday, the Friarage Hospital is the closest medical care.”