MP accused of “crumbling” over Friarage cuts

Rishi Sunak. Photo: Guy Carpenter.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has been accused of “crumbling” over the closure of the A&E at the Friarage and taking over a public meeting about the changes initially organised by campaigners.

More than 6,000 people have signed a petition against the cuts which will see the A&E be replaced with an urgent treatment centre from March 27.

The petition was launched by the Save the Friarage Campaign, which has been successful in mobilising local support against the changes.

The campaign group was planning to hold a public meeting to discuss the changes later this month, however this was cancelled after Mr Sunak announced plans for an alternative meeting, which would be attended by clinicians from the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital.

The move has prompted veteran health campaigner and Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie to claim the MP has “taken over” the campaign. He has also questioned why people need to email their intentions to attend if it’s a true public meeting.

Last week, the MP issued a statement saying a constructive dialogue with the medical team responsible for delivering the Friarage service was needed.

But in an email to campaign leader Holly Wilkinson, Cllr Blackie accuses the MP of “crumbling” and giving up the fight to save services at the Friarage.

He added: “His long statement last week smacked of defeatism, of caving in to the South Tees Trust and the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRW CCG).

“We need an MP who is an advocate for our local communities, not an apologist for the local NHS. Rishi Sunak needed to understand there is a job to be done fighting for us at the coal-face.

“I fear the meeting he has unilaterally taken over from Northallerton Town Council working in partnership with your campaign, will result in him hiding behind the management of the local NHS in justifying his half-hearted, lack-lustre response rather than challenging the NHS head on.”

He added: “I know both Dr Adrian Clements and Dr James Dunbar are first-rate highly skilled and caring clinicians but frankly they are not key decision-makers on the stage, and it would be a travesty if they were to be held to account when others, including Mr Sunak, are to blame for the situation the Friarage finds itself into today.”

NHS bosses say they do not have enough anaesthetists to run an A&E at the Friarage, and a recruitment campaign has been unsuccessful.

But Cllr Blackie, who stood against Mr Sunak at the last election, said the recruitment campaign had been “mealy-mouthed to say the least”.

He added: “It was driven by a desire to see closure by stealth.

“Mr Sunak as our local MP had a duty to drive forward this recruitment exercise but instead he has let the local NHS off the hook.”

Mr Sunak has declined to respond directly to the criticism.

However, in an email to the Save the Friarage campaign, published on their Facebook group, he said Northallerton School has been chosen because it had the biggest capacity in Northallerton, other than the Forum, which was not available.

He said the only reason they had asked people to email their intentions to attend was to monitor numbers.

He added: “The reason to have people indicate a desire to attend is simply to ensure we can accommodate everybody.

“I am sure you would agree that it would terrible to have people travel to a venue and then not be able to participate because it was full. Especially as some people will be travelling from a distance, may well have carers with them or be frail or vulnerable.

“Without having some indication of numbers in advance it is simply impossible to avoid such a scenario from occurring.”

Mr Sunak said the email addresses would not be used for anything else and data protection laws wold be adhered to.

The meeting will be held on Friday, March 22, at 6.15pm in the main hall of Northallerton School and Sixth Form College, in Grammar School Lane, Northallerton.

To advise of your attention to attend the meeting email

The MP said that people can also call his office on 01609 765330 rather than email if they preferred.

Doors open at 5.45pm in order to allow for a prompt start at 6.15pm

1 Comment

  1. It’s shocking, saving money over lives. What do we pay our taxes for. Our MP is useless, it’s not the first time I have come across him. The last time he couldn’t even be bothered to turn off his mobile in a meeting I had with him and not only that he answered it 😡😡😡

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