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Councillors accused of bullying NHS staff over Friarage downgrade plans
TWO prominent councillors have been accused of bullying and intimidating NHS staff over controversial plans to downgrade services at a hospital.
Members of NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have threatened to walk out of meetings over the future of maternity and children’s services at the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, if the alleged behaviour continues.
Although the CCG has refused to name the councillors, John Blackie, Upper Dales county councillor and leader of Richmondshire District Council, and Richmond district and county councillor, Stuart Parsons - both outspoken critics of the downgrading - said it was “obvious” the accusations referred to them.
The complaint has been lodged with the monitoring officer at North Yorkshire County Council.
Coun Parsons has also received an email about the behaviour of two councillors in in his role as chair of Richmondshire area committee.
The lay chairman of the CCG, Henry Cronin, said in the email that the integrity of the group and its staff had been called into question by two county and district councillors at two recent consultation meetings over changes at the Friarage.
Mr Cronin said: “We consider this behaviour to be bullying and intimidating in its nature.
“Whilst CCG staff are committed to fulfilling the many requests received to attend meetings and briefings, I would like assurance that they will be treated with respect at all times.
“If there is a repeat of such behaviour then our staff will leave the meeting.”
The two councillors said they were the only two county and district members who had attended recent consultation meetings, meaning the complaint was directed at them.
Both councillors have strenuously denied they have bullied or intimidated CCG staff.
Coun Blackie last night branded the complaint a “cheap shot” given that both he and Coun Parsons were accused – and cleared by the Standards Board for England – of bullying officers at Richmondshire District Council in 2007.
He added: “It’s outlandish - I have no doubt that they are running scared because of the research work that we’re doing which has uncovered example after example of small hospitals that are able to carry on and overcome the issues that they say are impossible to overcome.
“I have never questioned their integrity, but I have questioned their decisions.”
Coun Parsons said he was “absolutely astounded” by the complaint.
“They obviously don’t want to hear objections to their plans and alternative views to their own are not acceptable.”
The next consultation meeting will take place in Hawes on Thursday.
Coun Blackie said he had “no intention of altering the stance” he had taken on the proposed downgrade.
The CCG declined to comment.
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