Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital will lose its inpatient mental health services by the end of February next year, NHS officials have announced.
In October last year, NHS Hambleton and Richmondshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, announced that inpatient services would move from Northallerton.
Patients needing time in hospital will now be admitted to West Park Hospital at Darlington or Roseberry Park in Middlesbrough, whilst specialist inpatient care for people with dementia will continue at Auckland Park in Bishop Auckland.
The trust say they have also committed to investing in a new community mental health hub in Northallerton.
The trust has now confirmed that the planned move can go ahead. But due to building work, older people’s inpatient services will be provided at West Park Hospital in Darlington, instead of Roseberry Park, until Autumn 2019, which the CCG said would only affect a small number of people.
Ruth Hill, chief operating officer at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are sorry that some families will need to travel to Darlington instead of Middlesbrough because of the work we need to do at Roseberry Park but we will do all we can to minimise the impact on them.
“We are committed to providing local people with the best possible mental health care.
“For most people this means supporting them to remain at home or reducing the length of time they spend in hospital.
“We’re already seeing a reduction in the number of people who are admitted to hospital and we expect this to continue as our community services are strengthened.”
When the decision to close inpatient mental health services at the Friarage was announced last year, the CCG said the move would “strengthen community mental health services for adults and older people, so that more people can be supported at home”.
The health body said it would also reduce the need for hospital admission and provide inpatient care when needed in more modern facilities. The CCG also said the decision was made following extensive engagement and public consultation, overseen by NHS England and North Yorkshire County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee.
But the announcement of the closure of the two wards was criticised by community leaders. Richmond MP Rishi Sunak also called for assurances and clarity on several issues from health chiefs.
Richmondshire District Council and the Area Committee at North Yorkshire County Council also opposed the move.
Upper Dales County Councillor John Blackie said a visit to Roseberry Hospital in Teesside from the Upper Dales was a 60 mile trip which would take most the day for close relatives and friends wanting to visit and consign patients to unfamiliar surroundings.
He went on to describe the consultation as “simply an exercise in foregone conclusions that in no way reflects what the overwhelming majority of the rest of us served by the Friarage want or need”.