Consultation documents for the Friarage Hospital have been described as containing “multiple weaknesses” and potentially possessing the “worst narrative of the year” in an independent report.
The criticism comes from the Consultation Institute, a not-for-profit organisation which aims to promote best practice from those undertaking consultation exercises.
NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), in partnership with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has launched a 12-week public consultation.
Local NHS officials say they want to develop a “new vision” for the Friarage Hospital which would safeguard services and ensure local people continue to have access to high quality care.
It comes after the hospital’s A&E unit was downgraded to an Urgent Treatment Centre in March due to difficulties recruiting sufficient anaesthetists.
Two preferred options for urgent and emergency care provision have been put forward in the consultation — one would see the urgent treatment centre staying open 24/7 and the second would see it shut between midnight and 8am.
In its report, the Consultation Institute says the document contains “too much jargon”, is “amateurish”and is “repetitive and badly presented”.
On the issue of the two options, the report by the organisation’s founder director, Rhion Jones, states: “Experience suggests that it is a pretty disingenuous choice, and much of the narrative is an explanation of why the reduced hours option is clearly better by being cheaper and more sustainable – meaning presumably that the alternative option will be vulnerable to future cuts.
“Confusingly, the paper then asserts that its own CCG Governing Body found the 24-hour model preferable.”
The report says it is not clear how the final options were decided upon and what part the public’s views had in this decision.
It adds: “It states that there were 12 public engagement events in 2017 but these appear to have been to hear explanations of the challenges facing the NHS and provide feedback on public priorities.
“This is far from active involvement in options development; these appear to have emerged only from clinical working groups.
“There is no clarity as to who undertook the options appraisal or what scenarios were considered. The list of criteria includes ‘affordability’ but with no indication of what the NHS considered to be affordable.
“Consultees would be in no position to consider or challenge the appraisal without knowing what the criterion meant.”
It concludes: “In summary, this is a very disappointing consultation paper.”
NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) declined to comment on the report.
It is understood the document review by the Consultation Institute was the full consultation document rather than the summary.
The CCG website states that the summary document is the “short document for the public”, while the full report is the “document for stakeholders and partners”.
Holly Wilkinson, from the Save the Friarage Campaign, said “Unsurprisingly, there is a continued lack of transparency shown even within the consultation procedure which is clear from the independent assessment of the document is actually not a consultation.
“Again we are disappointed that the trust have been allowed to avoid consultation on the loss of A&E, emergency care and intensive care for the 144,000 people of North Yorkshire it serves despite it being evident that they have done nothing innovative or creative to recruit the handful of specialist consultants required to run the service to full capacity.”
You can read the full report by the Consultation Institute here.