Lawyers And Campaigners Welcome Decision
High Court legal action into the suspension of accident and emergency services at The Friarage hospital in Northallerton has been shelved after health bosses agreed to hold a full consultation into the decision.
South Tees NHS Foundation Trust took the step to replace A&E services at the hospital with an urgent care treatment centre at the end of March, with management claiming it was due to problems with the recruitment of key staff including doctors and anaesthetists.
However, the Save Friarage Hospital group went on to launch a campaign, arguing that the step could have a major impact both in the community and also on services at other nearby hospitals.
This led a local resident to instruct Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team to investigate the situation. Lawyers were granted permission for a judicial review to be held examining the legality of the decision on the grounds that the Trust had failed to engage with the public or the local council regarding the decision to suspend the A&E service. The case was due to be heard in the High Court on July 25.
However, the hearing has now been vacated after the NHS Trust - in conjunction with NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the body which commissions services from the NHS Trust, agreed to hold a full consultation into services at the hospital. As part of the agreement the Trust will continue to review the possibility of re-opening the hospital’s A&E throughout the consultation period.
Expert Opinion“While we appreciate that the NHS is facing many challenges, our clients have said all along that those directly affected by the suspension of A&E services at The Friarage had not been properly consulted.
“We welcome this agreement and the Health Trust’s pledge to keep reviewing the re-opening the A&E department at the Friarage Hospital, something which our clients’ were always concerned about.
“It is now vital that the CCG carries out a full and transparent consultation, with an open mind on all the options including reinstating the A & E and other services at the Friarage, allowing residents to have the opportunity to fully take part in the decision making process.” Helen Smith - Senior Associate Solicitor
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As part the agreement, a “formal public consultation” into the CCG’s long-term plans for the Friarage will start no later than 30 September.
The CCG’s public consultation will include the involvement of groups including Healthwatch, Save the Friarage Hospital group, Age UK and Headway.
The CCG has committed to ensuring elderly residents and those living in rural areas will be properly consulted through posting copies of the consultation documents to those who request them and by media advertising.
The Save Friarage Hospital group has said that the suspension of A&E services at The Friarage has led to the loss of hospital beds in both the emergency ward and the intensive treatment unit.
It was also concerned the move will have a particular impact on both the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Darlington Memorial Hospital – sites which would often divert patients to The Friarage when they are at capacity.
Holly Wilkinson of the Save Friarage Hospital group added: “We continue to have concerns about what the long-term future may hold for the hospital but welcome the commitment to fully engage with everyone who will be affected.
“It is now vital that that the agreement is more than words and that the NHS Trust and CCG stick to their promise.
“We will continue to campaign to maintain hospital services at The Friarage.”
For more information on the Save Friarage Hospital campaign group, visit:
• Save Friarage Hospital CrowdJustice page
• 'Keep The Friarage A&E open' change.org petition
• Save The Friarage Hospital Facebook group