Legal challenge could be mounted over the Friarage Hospital

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

A LEGAL challenge could be mounted in the High Court over the decision to downgrade maternity services at a popular North Yorkshire hospital.

Leader of Richmondshire District Council Coun John Blackie won the support of his council last night (Tuesday, February 25), with a motion being carried to look into taking legal action over the decision by the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group.

The CCG confirmed a decision to downgrade maternity and children’s services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton last week, despite an alternative proposal being submitted by Coun Blackie and his colleagues, council officer Penny Hillary and Coun John Robinson.

Their model, which included the retention of a consultant-led service at the hospital, was rejected by the CCG.

At last night's meeting at Mercury House in Richmond, Coun Blackie proposed that the council look into pursuing a judicial review over the decision-making process.

He said: “RDC is dismayed by the decision and the way the decision was reached behind closed doors.

“We were promised by the secretary of state that our alternative option would be robustly examined but in the end GPs were advised not to support it.”

He asked council officers to look into financial implications, as well as to invite Hambleton District Council and North Yorkshire County Council to support it.

Councillors voted unanimously to support Coun Blackie’s proposal.

The CCG has said each option put forward for the future of services at the Friarage was examined with an open mind and discussed with local commissioners.

Dr Vicky Pleydell, Clinical Chief Officer at the CCG, said: “The CCG has a legal duty under the NHS Constitution to commission high quality, safe services and we are committed to ensuring a transparent and open process is followed.

"As such we have engaged widely with the local population to talk to them about the challenges faced in maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital and to present future options for safe and sustainable  service reconfiguration."

The CCG added that it kept the same decision making criteria and process for the engagement and for the public consultation phases to ensure consistency.

An Extraordinary Governing Body meeting of the CCG, which is open to the public, will take place at 10am tomorrow (Thursday, February 27) at The Yorkshire Suite, The Golden Lion Hotel, Northallerton, at which the decision to downgrade services is expected to be ratified. 

Coun Blackie confirmed he has had questions he submitted to the meeting rejected.

He said: “I understood I could ask any questions and there was no time limit but lay chairman of the CCG, Henry Cronin, said he considers three of them to be inappropriate.”

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