A warning from bosses at James Cook University Hospital that patients with minor in juries are in for a “long wait” highlights the need for the A&E at the Friarage to remain open, campaigners say.
The warning was issued by the Middlesbrough hospital last night, with patients advised that the A&E was extremely busy.
Patients with minor injuries were advised to go elsewhere and use alternative services, including pharmacies and and GP hubs.
The warning comes just days after it was announced that the Friarage Hospital’s accident and emergency department was to be downgraded to a 24/7 urgent treatment centre.
Health chiefs say the move is temporary due to staff shortages.
In a further blow to local NHS services, it also emerged last week that Hambleton Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group had told GP practices that in a bid to cut costs it would no longer fund an enhanced minor injuries service provided by the medical centres.
The warning from James Cook Hospital was highlighted last night by campaigners who have launched a petition calling on the A&E to be maintained at the Friarage.
The Save the Friarage Campaign said: “This is why we need our Friarage A&E department.
“They were telling us that they were busy last night, what’s it going to be like next month and the five months after that?”
Hutton Ruby resident Holly Wilkinson, who launched the campaign, added: “This is why we can’t afford to lose the Friarage.
“James Cook is full to the rafters as it is serving the people of Teesside.
“This six-month closure of the Friarage A&E will put it under even more pressure, and not just the staff and consultants. The ambulance service will be put under a huge strain too. Lives will be lost.”
More than 5,000 people have now signed a Save the Friarage petition online, with paper petition also being distributed across Hambleton and Richmondshire.