Final meeting on Friarage battle

A protest march and rally was held in Northallerton on Saturday, May 26 to save the services at  the Friarage hospital in Northallerton, with local MP William Hague (centre) joining the march.
A protest march and rally was held in Northallerton on Saturday, May 26 to save the services at the Friarage hospital in Northallerton, with local MP William Hague (centre) joining the march.

The last of a series of public meetings in the battle over paediatric and maternity services at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital is set for Bedale on June 18.

The meeting at Bedale Hall will start at 6.30pm, and will give residents a chance to question doctors and NHS managers about the future of the Friarage’s services.

It was announced in January that in-patient paediatric care and a full maternity service could be axed, meaning the majority of women would travel to Middlesbrough, Harrogate, York or Darlington to give birth.

Campaigners against the plans have demanded a radical change in approach after visiting other hospitals that have seen similar battles nationwide. Richmondshire District Council’s leader John Blackie claimed lessons can be learnt from campaigns which have saved local healthcare elsewhere in the country.

He was part of a delegation who visited Horton General Hospital in Banbury, where maternity services had been under threat five years ago.

Coun Blackie admitted funding would need to be secured from the Strategic Health Authority to ensure that a full maternity service continues in Northallerton, as Horton General Hospital was handed a £1.4m financial lifeline to ensure the full services continued, but Coun Blackie was adamant costs in North Yorkshire would be less.

He said: “People deserve to have good quality health provision close at hand, and there is a very strong feeling among the public to keep full maternity services at the Friarage Hospital. But there needs to be a willingness to ensure this is done, and I do believe there needs to be a change in mindset. If Horton General Hospital can do it, then so can we.”

NHS officials say services must be streamlined, though as many services as possible will be maintained at Friarage Hospital.