ROUTINE operations scheduled for the Tour de France Grand Depart weekend will be postponed to free up space in the region's hospitals.

Extra road and air ambulances will be on stand by for the event while officials have confirmed that spectator hubs will be closed if spectator numbers exceed safety limits.

With a month to go until the world's biggest annual sporting event, council and NHS bosses are finalising their plans to ensure the event runs smoothly and safely.

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John Darley, delivery manager for Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), admitted that the race could put extra strain on the region's NHS services.

He added: “The CCG is part of a regional, multi-agency task force that has been working together to plan for the impact on all types of local services from the point that the announcement was made that the Tour de France Grand Depart would be coming to Yorkshire.

“In terms of the local NHS, the most significant issue for us is the potential increase in pressure on our healthcare services as we welcome thousands of visitors from across the globe to our area.

“In response, we have drawn up a comprehensive and robust plan of action that will ensure that our healthcare services have the extra capacity to cope throughout the weekend."

These include:

- Increased road ambulance cover, especially in Richmondshire where the race passes through

- Four air ambulances on stand-by as opposed to the usual two

- Double the number of fast response teams for the care of vulnerable patients in the community

- Extra nurses and doctors in accident and emergency at James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton

- A 25 per cent increase in staff on call for GP out-of-hours cover

Other measures include signposts to direct the public to first aid points positioned at regular intervals along the race route.

Crossing points have also been agreed for ambulances and GP out of hours vehicles to get to incidents across the race route

Vulnerable patients have been identified and NHS staff will be on stand-by at home to visit patients in their own home if necessary.

Mr Darley added: "Patients that were due to receive planned healthcare procedures over the weekend of Le Tour have been re-scheduled."

Twenty one spectator hubs will be set up during the first stage on July 5.

North Yorkshire County Council said crowds would be managed safely.

A spokesman added: "If areas become full then there is a clear plan in place to restrict access to that area and divert spectators to areas where is space.

"This will be implemented by stewards and experienced event managers on the ground."