Petition launched to fight Friarage cuts

The Friarage Hospital.

More than two thousand people have signed a petition against cuts at the Friarage Hospital.

The petition was launched in response to a decision by health bosses to downgrade the accident and emergency department to a 24/7 urgent treatment centre.

All complex critical care dependent surgery will also be moved to James Cook Hospital.

Health chiefs say the move is temporary due to staff shortages.

It is understood South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, does not have enough anaesthetists to run both A&E’s at the Friarage and James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.

The petition – Stop the cuts to the South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust – was launched by Hutton Rugby resident Holly Wilkinson.

It calls on the South Tees Trust to stop the cuts at the Friarage, saying too many life-threatening cuts have been made at the Northallerton hospital. Richmond MP Rishi Sunak and Kevin Hollinrake, who represents Thirsk and Malton, are also asked to intervene in the situation.

It states: “Northallerton as a town is expanding and the local community is fearful for the future of the Friarage Hospital as we’ve already lost maternity, mental health, children’s services and are due to lose the A&E and intensive care services as well.

“As a hospital which serves the local farming community as well as the largest army garrison in Europe at Catterick and people who live in the far flung corners of the North Yorkshire moors and the Yorkshire Dales we can not afford to lose anymore services from the Friarage.”

Explaining the decision to temporarily close the A&E, Dr Adrian Clements, medical director for the Friarage Hospital and deputy chief executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said last week: “We need to make these temporary changes to provide safe services for the population we serve.

“Despite our many efforts to recruit key medical staff over the last 18 months, support from our partners and the hard work of my team to keep services running, we are now facing significant risks because of an imminent gap in staffing.”

Last week, Mr Sunak said he was frustrated that NHS managers resorted to emergency measures when the difficulties with the recruitment of certain doctors have been known about for over a year.

He added on Sunday: “I have spent recent days in urgent talks with health managers and doctors at the Friarage about the situation.

“What is clear is that the issue is not money, but about persuading the relevant doctors to work at the Friarage. Critical care doctors at the James Cook have been offered substantial incentives to work at our hospital but have chosen not to accept.

“Despite my pushing consistently for over a year on this specific issue, I have also been repeatedly told that the trust cannot roster critical care doctors to work permanently across both sites. This is obviously extremely disappointing and frustrating.

“To solve this problem, the trust needs to find a handful of extra critical care doctors to work at the Friarage – the money is there to pay them if they are willing to work here.”

“Going forward I’ll continue to engage with all parties concerned to ensure the best possible outcome. That  means as many constituents as possible receiving their emergency treatment at the Friarage.”

Mr Hollinrake said he was deeply concerned about the temporary changes.

Mr Hollinrake said he and Mr Sunak were writing to the trust to oppose this downgrade and to challenge it on what efforts it is making to recruit new doctors.

Mr Hollinrake said: “Our concern is that these changes could be the thin end of the wedge and might lead to the withdrawal of more services in the future.”

To sign the petition click here.

A Save the Friarage Facebook group also been launched.

You can join the group here.