THE SECRETARY of State for health has formally been asked to intervene in the proposed downgrading of services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

A formal letter was today (Thursday, December 20) sent to health secretary Jeremy Hunt by North Yorkshire County Councillor Jim Clark, chairman of the authority's scrutiny of health committee.

The letter states that the proposal to get rid of consultant-led services at the maternity unit and downgrading the paediatric unit would result in a “reduction in the quality of services”.

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It includes written evidence from the Richmond MP William Hague, who supported the committee's referral.

The decision to send the letter was made at a recent scrutiny of health committee meeting attended by 200 members of the public.

Coun Clark said: "The Friarage is widely regarded - quite rightly - as an excellent hospital, providing a first-class service across a large rural area to people who would otherwise have to contemplate travelling long distances for health care.

“We believe it would be quite wrong for a decision to be made on this issue without satisfactory alternative options being considered."