More patients using Friarage urgent treatment centre than A&E, councillors told

NHS bosses have been told the public must be consulted ahead of any future changes at the Friarage as doctors say admissions to the new urgent treatment centre have increased since it change from an A&E unit.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmondshire constituency committee said it was “drawing a line in the sand” over South Tees NHS Trust’s move to change the accident and emergency department at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, to an urgent treatment centre.

The meeting at County Hall heard South Tees NHS Trust medical director Adrian Clements emphasise while the latest change at the hospital was “not a service downgrade”, he and his colleagues had been forced to introduce it due to patient safety concerns.

He said the launch of the urgent treatment centre from the end of March had exceeded NHS expectations, with almost double the number of children being treated under the new model of care than had been previously.

Confounding the predictions of some critics, Dr Clements revealed slightly more patients had attended the urgent treatment centre than had attended the accident and emergency department over the same week last year.

He added the first week of the new model of care had also 32 fewer admissions into the Friarage, which he said was well within what the trust had predicted.

He said the majority of those patients had instead gone to the James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough and the others had been admitted to Darlington Memorial Hospital. Nevertheless, a series of councillors told Dr Clements and the Friarage Hospital’s clinical director Dr James Dunbar they remained sceptical about whether the new system would be able to cope with demand in the long-term.

Councillor Helen Grant highlighted how population growth, and the expansion of Catterick Garrison in particular, would intensify pressures on the services, while former county council leader Councillor John Weighell questioned whether the system would have sufficient capacity.

Dr Clements said one of the biggest risks facing the new model of care at the Friarage was being able to staff it, and until a permanent solution to the service at the Friarage was ratified recruiting staff would remain difficult.