A PETITION to save a North-East hospital has passed 5,000 signatures as campaigners warn "long delays" at a nearby accident and emergency department (A&E) is further proof the facility should remain open.

Delays at James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough earlier this week has increased concerns that a decision to suspend critical care services at The Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, in the face of “critical” staff shortages could be the difference between "life and death" for patients.

Bosses at James Cook asked patients earlier this week to consider using pharmacies and the NHS 111 number if they were not in an emergency as the A&E department was "extremely busy".

Holly Wilkinson, who launched the campaign, said: "The Friarage Hospital was opened in 1939 and was built on the site of an ancient friary that had served the town since 1353.

"A great many concerns have been expressed regarding greatly increased travelling times to the next A&E department at James Cook University Hospital at Middlesbrough especially for emergency patients travelling from the Yorkshire Dales and other areas that lie beyond Northallerton.

"An additional 30 minutes would be added to any journey where a patient needed to go to James Cook in because of the closure of The Friarage, which in some cases could mean the difference between life and death.

"In addition to this funding is being withdrawn from the Minor Injuries clinics run by local GPs meaning more people will have to go to A&E."

Last week, it was announced the Friarage accident and emergency department would be temporarily downgraded to a “24/7 Urgent Treatment Centre” from March 27.

NHS bosses said due to their inability to recruit staff to work at the hospital it was no longer safe for patients needing critical care to be treated at the Northallerton infirmary and they would launch a public consultation over future plans for emergency healthcare provision at the site.

Dr Adrian Clements, the hospital’s medical director, said: “We need to make these temporary changes to provide safe services for the population we serve.

“Despite our many efforts to recruit key medical staff over the last 18 months, support from our partners and the hard work of my team to keep services running, we are now facing significant risks because of an imminent gap in staffing.”

  • To sign the petition, click here