William Hague lends his support to alternative proposal to save maternity services at Northallerton's Friarage Hospital

The Northern Echo: Friarage Hospital, Northallerton Friarage Hospital, Northallerton

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to maintain maternity and children’s services at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital have been given a morale boost after William Hague MP has backed their proposal to avoid a downgrade.

Richmondshire District Council leader Coun John Blackie and colleagues last month handed over a proposal to NHS managers after visits to several similar-sized hospitals in Scotland and the West Country, which were making their services work for a fraction of the cost estimated for the Friarage.

Now Mr Hague has offered his support to Coun Blackie’s proposal, which involves maintaining a 24-seven consultant-led maternity and paediatric service for £200,000 a year – rather than £2.7m quoted by the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group.

Mr Hague said: “The alternative model put forward in this paper is based on some strong arguments and draws on very good examples from around the country.

“It is a much more attractive option than the proposed downgrade of maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital and it deserves the most careful scrutiny by the CCG with a view to making it work.

“I applaud the work that has been done to create an alternative proposal and if it is not adopted I and many other local people will want to know in great detail why it cannot be made to work.”

The consultation, which is now closed, gave only options of providing a midwife-led service, which only low-risk mothers would be able to use.

But Coun Blackie said that for mothers in the Upper Dales, there was a real fear that without the Friarage Hospital they would be forced to give birth on the way to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough because they would not get there in time.

He said: “It’s a real boost for the campaign and for our morale to have William Hague’s backing.

“I particularly like that he has thrown down a challenge to the local NHS to make it work, along with a question of if not, then why not?

“It’s a powerful challenge they will have to respond to – he holds a senior position in the government and is not going to back a proposal unless it is credible and would work.”

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