Richmondshire councillors call for Friarage urgent treatment centre to stay open 24/7

Richmondshire District councillors have overwhelmingly voted in favour of retaining the 24-hour seven days a week urgent treatment centre at the Friarage Hospital.

The vote comes as the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group and South Tees NHS Trust consult over its future.

A meeting of the council heard numerous members condemn the alternative option of the centre’s hours being reduced to 16 a day as “unpalatable” or “unacceptable”.

The council’s former leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said patients should not be expected to travel to hospitals unknown to them, such as Darlington Memorial or James Cook in Middlesbrough, in the middle of the night.

Cllr Peacock said it had been two decades since out of hours GP services ended in the Dales, meaning the nearest medical care was almost 30 miles away overnight and during weekends.

She said: “It’s all right looking at statistics and saying how many people use the urgent treatment centre, but these are genuine people who genuinely have this concern. I just can’t believe that when we have found something that is good that we could continue with we are going to have its hours cut.

“When you have 24-hour cover seven days a week all the time that’s in the minds of all our residents. The second you cut the hours people will question when you can go.”

Councillor Jill McMullon called on the council to battle for the restoration of the hospital’s accident and emergency department, which closed earlier this year due to a lack of staff.

She said some residents are “worried sick” about the loss of the accident and emergency department. She added: “I think we need to fight harder. Just because they say we can’t doesn’t mean to say we can’t or that we shouldn’t.”

Councillor Leslie Rowe said the proposals were part of “the inexorable run down of services at the Friarage”. He added: “We know that by hook or by crook the CCG will eventually impose the 16-hour regime, then a 12-hour regime and then the urgent treatment centre will be declared undeliverable and be closed.”

While members were told NHS bosses had warned the 24-hour service was less sustainable than the 16-hour service as nurse practitioners wanted to work night shifts, most agreed the best way forward would be to fight to keep the centre open around the clock.