CAMPAIGNERS battling against the proposed suspension of A&E services at the Friarage Hospital have called on specialist lawyers for help.

The South Tees NHS Foundation Trust downgraded the hospital to the status of an urgent care treatment centre last Wednesday, with an inability to recruit key medical staff, particularly anaesthetists and critical care doctors, being cited as the reason.

However, the Save Friarage Hospital group has warned the changes may put patients’ lives at risk.

The campaign group says that the changes will significantly impact on services and have warned that it will see the loss of the 31-bed emergency ward as well as the intensive treatment unit beds.

The Northern Echo:

They have also warned that the plans will have a knock-on effect for the ambulance service and at other local hospitals such as James Cook and Darlington Memorial, as patients would usually be diverted to the Friarage when the two reach capacity.

Now the campaigners have instructed specialist public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate and help them take action to prevent the proposals.

The same legal team has successfully helped other campaign groups to save services from closure and is currently working with groups in Huddersfield and South Tyneside to save similar local hospital services.

Helen Smith, of Irwin Mitchell’s public law team, is acting for the campaign group and said: “Our clients are hugely concerned about the suspension to specific hospital services and are now working quickly to consider the legal options available.

“The changes in this case would affect more than just the people of Northallerton, as they may only serve to have a wider impact on other local health services.

“With this in mind, we will be analysing the decision-making process to ultimately determine whether all of the consequences of this move have been properly considered.”

Campaigner Holly Wilkinson said: “This suspension will have a major impact on the local community as well as other local hospitals and health facilities.

“We have significant concerns regarding putting lives at risk and feel we have been left with no choice but to consult with lawyers.”