THE Health Secretary has been asked to order an urgent review into plans to downgrade maternity and paediatric services at a general hospital.

Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire’s health scrutiny sommittee, has sent a letter to Jeremy Hunt asking for the proposed changes at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, to be considered by the NHS Independent Reconfiguration Panel.

Coun Clark said the review was necessary to ensure that all options for the units had been properly explored.

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It follows a decision by Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to create midwife-led maternity and short stay paediatric assessment services in place of consultant-led units.

In a letter to Mr Hunt, Coun Clark said the CCG had proved changes at the units were necessary.

He added the consultation undertaken by the CCG had been "fair, open and rigorous", but said his committee felt the situation at the Friarage may require a unique solution.

Coun Clark told Mr Hunt the committee remained unconvinced that all efforts to find such a solution had been exhausted.

The call for a review follows NHS bosses warning that the units were facing critical shortages of staff and could be closed in the coming months to ensure patient safety.

Coun Clark wrote: “As a considerable amount of time has elapsed since the changes at the Friarage Hospital were first advocated, the committee recognises the service is becoming fragile.

"Consequently, I would appreciate this request being dealt with as a matter of urgency.”