Travelling times and Catterick Garrison expansion among concerns over Friarage future

Travelling times, ambulance provision and the expansion of Catterick Garrrison were among the main concerns of people taking part in a debate on the future of the Friarage Hospital.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has released a report which shows more than 1,500 people shared their views on the future of the Friarage Hospital.

During an 11-week period, around 500 people attended public events, more than 900 completed surveys and feedback cards, over 70 staff joined in discussions and feedback was collected from social media posts, MP letters and more than 40 stakeholder meetings.

The Building a Sustainable Future for the Friarage engagement programme aimed to explain the key challenges facing the Friarage Hospital to hospital staff, the public and stakeholders.

The challenges described include recruitment difficulties and changes to medical training which are impacting on some key service areas such as critical care, overnight anaesthetic cover and accident and emergency.

It also aimed to reassure people that the Northallerton hospital would not be closing and invited them to help develop what a sustainable future could look like.

Hospital bosses said it was clear from the responses received that people are passionate about the Friarage and about maintaining local services.

People said they wanted as many services as possible to be as close to home as possible, but officials said the majority agreed that quality of care and safety was a top priority.

The main issues highlighted were:

  • Travelling and distance – including parking issues, taxi costs and the practical challenges of having to get to hospital for an early morning appointment
  • Ambulance provision – including response times and the impact on the service if patients had to travel further afield
  • More communications needed – to dispel myths about the Friarage and promote services
  • Value of local services – including providing services as close to home as possible and concerns about more services being lost
  • Quality of care and importance of receiving the right care in an emergency – a significant number of people ranked this as their top priority and many agreed that while expert care cannot always be provided locally, rehabilitation and planned follow-up should be accessible
  • Impact of potential changes to emergency care services at the Friarage – including fears that this could have a knock-on effect on other services at the hospital
  • Impact of population growth – due to increasing numbers at Catterick Garrison and new housing developments
  • Meeting the needs of specific communities – including difficulties with language barriers and improving experiences for children with special needs

The trust says all views, suggestions and concerns have been officially documented and will be considered as it now looks to develop its long term vision for the Friarage.

Adrian Clements, medical director for the Friarage Hospital, said: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to contribute to this engagement programme.

“Your views and comments have been collated in our engagement report which is now available for anyone to view on our website.

“We are continuing to work closely with our clinicians to thoroughly review all our clinical options, as well as looking at the independent reports we have received from the Royal College of Anaesthetists and Royal College of Emergency Medicine.

“The Friarage Hospital is, and will remain, an integral part of our organisation. People are now more aware of the challenges that we must address and the valuable feedback gathered throughout this process will help us start to shape a plan for the future which meets the needs of the population we serve.”

The trust says all of the data and information gathered will inform a draft business case, setting out proposals to ensure safe and sustainable services.

This will be shared with NHS England, and North Yorkshire County Council Scrutiny of Health Committee.

Pending the outcome of these discussions a formal 12-week consultation period could begin during summer 2018.