Friarage A&E to become 24/7 urgent treatment centre

The Friarage Hospital.

Health bosses have announced that the Friarage Hospital’s accident and emergency department is to be downgraded to a 24/7 urgent treatment centre.

All complex critical care dependent surgery will also be moved to James Cook Hospital.

Health chiefs say the move is temporary due to staff shortages.

However, the announcement has tonight been greeted with “deep disappointment and frustration” by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak who says the situation has arisen because NHS officials have been unable to recruit a “handful of consultants”.

A consultation was due to take place over the future of the hospital, however NHS officials say that process has been “overtaken by events”.

Officials say that over the last 18 months, consultants at the Friarage have developed an innovative new model, to provide acute medical services in a small rural hospital.

During this public engagement South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust stated its intent to go out to full public consultation on this model.

However, the trust says it needs to make temporary changes to critical care services.

Dr Adrian Clements, Medical Director for the Friarage Hospital and Deputy Chief Executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We need to make these temporary changes to provide safe services for the population we serve.

“Despite our many efforts to recruit key medical staff over the last 18 months, support from our partners and the hard work of my team to keep services running, we are now facing significant risks because of an imminent gap in staffing.”

Health bosses say the majority of services at The Friarage will remain unchanged, with around nine out of ten patients continuing to be seen there, including outpatient clinics and planned day surgery which make up the majority of the services.

The trust says it will assess the appropriateness of all 999 and GP emergency activity prior to patients arriving at the Friarage.

officials say that the Accident and Emergency service changing to a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre (UTC) means eventually that it will be able to treat children with minor illnesses (such as fever, rashes, asthma), rather than just minor injuries, which has been the case for a number of years.

Siobhan McArdle, chief executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “During recent public engagement on the Friarage Hospital, we committed to developing a safe and sustainable future for the hospital, and this absolutely remains our intent.

“Once we have stabilised our current services to ensure patient safety, we will be working in partnership with the CCG to deliver a full public consultation in order to agree the longer term sustainable future service model for the Friarage, something we all want to see.” 

Dr Charles Parker for NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We know from extensive public engagement how important the Friarage Hospital is to our local communities and we remain committed to sustaining services at the hospital.

“We are disappointed that workforce pressures have resulted in this temporary service change and support the Trust in their decision to make these changes as a result of significant safety concerns.

“We are working with the Trust, local GPs, the Yorkshire Ambulance Service and other system partners to ensure the impact of these changes is minimised for the majority of people.

“These are urgent temporary changes but there is still an underlying workforce problem. We will therefore proceed with a public consultation on the future sustainability of services at the Friarage in line with our statutory duty.”

Mr Sunak said he was frustrated that managers have had to resort to an emergency measures when the difficulties with the recruitment of certain doctors have been known about for over a year.

He added: “Obviously, patient safety has to come first so I understand why the trust has acted.

“But it is concerning that this situation has arisen in the first place and developed so suddenly because of the trust’s inability to recruit a handful of doctors.”

Mr Sunak said he had pressed the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Friarage, to overhaul its recruitment processes in November 2017 when it first said it was struggling to recruit anaesthetists.

It followed a meeting he called with the hospitals’ doctors and medical staff to investigate the issue.

Mr Sunak said: “I have pushed the trust to ensure job security for affected Friarage employees and I am pleased to have received assurances.”

Some staff may be asked to transfer to James Cook as a result of the changes.

He said he would also continue to press the hospital’s managers to retain as much capacity to treat seriously-ill patients as possible and furthermore, to use whatever capacity would be freed up from these changes to increase the provision of more routine surgery at the Friarage which would reduce the number of those patients that currently have to travel to James Cook.


  1. What a load of waffle. Didn’t the last ‘Temporary’ closure end up being permanent? It doesn’t matter how good an alternative suggestion is the decision has been made. We who only have to travel 45 minutes (traffic and ambulance availability permitting) to M’Boro have it easy. God help The Dales population.

  2. I see Rishi Sunak has been no use whatsoever again! Waste of time MP! Still gets paid though.

  3. Dear Rishi SUnak, I challenge you to be in the back of an Ambulance travelling from Hawes to James Cook. No sea sickness pills allowed.

  4. I suggest we put up signs along the A684 in Wensleydale – Nearest A&E over an hour away. Ride and drive safely, you’d never make it alive

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