Concerns Raised That Changes ‘Could Put Lives At Risk’
Campaigners battling against the suspension of accident and emergency services at The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton have called on specialist lawyers for help after raising concerns that the changes may put ‘patients’ lives at risk’.
South Tees NHS Foundation Trust downgraded the hospital to the status of an urgent care treatment on Wednesday, with the NHS managers stating that the step was taken because of an inability to recruit key medical staff, particularly in relation to anaesthetists and experienced critical care doctors.
However, the Save Friarage Hospital group has warned that the changes will significantly impact on services at the site and have warned that it will see the loss of the 31-bed emergency ward as well as the intensive treatment unit beds.
The campaigners have also warned that the plans will have a knock-on effect for the Ambulance service and at other hospitals across the area such as James Cook in Middlesbrough and Darlington Memorial, as patients would usually be diverted to the Friarage when the two reach capacity.
Now the campaigners have instructed specialist Public Law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the situation and help them take action to prevent the ‘unsafe’ proposals.
The same legal team has successfully helped other campaign groups to save services such as respite centres across the country from closure and is also working with groups in other parts of the country such as in Huddersfield and South Tyneside to save similar local hospital services.
Expert Opinion“Our clients are hugely concerned about the suspension to specific hospital services and are now working quickly to consider the legal options available.
“The changes in this case would affect more than just the people of Northallerton, as they may only serve to have a wider impact on other local health services. With this in mind, we will be analysing the decision-making process to ultimately determine whether all of the consequences of this move have been properly considered.
“While we recognise that the NHS is facing great strain at this time, it is absolutely vital that every decision is made lawfully and with the best interests of patients at heart.” Helen Smith - Senior Associate Solicitor
The temporary closure of the A&E was implemented on Wednesday and will be reviewed in six months’ time. According to the Save Friarage Hospital group, no indication has been provided by the Trust that any work or recruitment will be undertaken to address the staffing issue within that time period.
While planned surgery was set to increase at the hospital, the campaigners added that there was no contingency plan for complications which may arise from planned surgeries, other than a 24-mile transfer to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Holly Wilkinson, from the Save Friarage Hospital group, said: “The Friarage merged with South Tees in 2002 and ever since that point there have been cuts to services. Coronary care, paediatric services and consultant-led maternity services have all gone and now the A&E is in the firing line.
“This suspension will have a major impact on the local community as well as other local hospitals and health facilities. We have significant concerns regarding putting lives at risk and feel we have been left with no choice but to consult with lawyers.
“We demand to have our views and thoughts on the issue heard. We would urge people to get behind our campaign, donate or share and ensure that these changes are in the interest of the patients it serves.”
The campaigners are concerned that issues of health inequality and patient access to care in rural communities have been skirted around and there is a lack of confidence that the trust are being transparent about their true intentions for downgrading services at the Friarage hospital.
The campaigners have set up a crowdfunding page to help fund their case. For more information visit https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/savethefriarage/