Friarage Hospital urgent treatment centre to remain open 24/7

The urgent treatment centre at the Friarage Hospital is to stay open 24/7 after NHS bosses agreed not to reduce its hours.

The decision has been made by the governing body of North Yorkshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

It follows an 18-week consultation about the future of the Northallerton hospital.

Dr Charles Parker, clinical chair of North Yorkshire CCG, said: “The CCG have reviewed the responses and feedback from the consultation and have agreed that Option 1 is the sustainable way forward for urgent care at the Friarage Hospital.

“Evidence shows that, under this model, nine out of ten patients will continue to receive their care at the Friarage and we know that the hospital is highly regarded by those who use it.”

CCG accountable officer Amanda Bloor added: “We want to ensure a vibrant future for the Friarage Hospital as we know local people feel very passionate about it. We feel that by offering a 24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre at the Friarage site this offers patients a balance between safe and effective local care and access to specialist services when appropriate.

“This option will secure the sustainability of the Friarage Hospital and will keep it at the heart of the local community where it belongs.”

The announcement has been welcomed by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.

In his submission to the consultation Mr Sunak had argued for maintaining the status quo.

He said the urgent treatment centre was performing well and his constituents deserved the reassurance of a 24/7 service given the travelling distances many faced getting to alternative emergency and urgent care services.

Welcoming the decision, Mr Sunak said: “My constituents will find this decision hugely reassuring. There has been uncertainty over the services offered at the hospital and this decision will help to allay the fears of many who told me how greatly they value what is offered at the Friarage.

“The knowledge that the majority of urgent care needs will still be met at our much-loved local hospital 24 hours a day seven days a week is very important.”

Mr Sunak said he was grateful that the CCG had listened to and accepted the argument he and others made in the consultation process about the travelling distances many constituents would have faced in the small hours of the night if the reduced hours option had been selected.

He added that he was looking forward to hearing further about hospital chiefs’ plans to expand services at the hospital once the current challenge of coping with the Covid-19 epidemic was overcome.

Mr Sunak praised the “incredible work” of staff at the Friarage Hospital which was playing an invaluable support role to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough during the coronavirus emergency.

Following a temporary closure of the A&E department in March 2019 due to staffing issues, the CCG opened a formal consultation with the local population in September last year.

Officials said the aim was to look at options to deliver a sustainable service for the local population while ensuring safe staffing levels and access to high quality specialist care for those who need it.

Over the 18 weeks of the consultation more than 2,060 people gave their views at public meetings, through online and face to face surveys and at meetings with local community groups.

The public were asked to consider two options:

  • Option 1: A 24 hour, 7 day a week Urgent Treatment Centre for adults and children with minor injuries and minor illnesses
  • Option 2: A 16 hour Urgent Treatment Centre for adults and children with minor injuries and minor illnesses, open 7 days a week from 8am to midnight

Both options also included a consultant delivered acute medical service seven days a week, repatriation of patients to the Friarage for care close to home and elective (planned) surgery for day case and short stay inpatients.

The CCG said that although there was some support for Option 2 when the statistics were shared which demonstrated very low levels of urgent treatment centre attendance overnight, the overwhelming view of those consulted was that the Friarage should offer a 24/7 service – the model that has been operating successfully since March 2019.