CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save A&E services at the Friarage Hospital have instructed lawyers to assist in launching legal action to overturn the decision.

South Tees NHS Foundation Trust has temporarily downgraded the Northallerton hospital to suspend A&E services and replace it with an urgent care treatment centre last week. Hospital management said the move was because of issues including the recruitment of doctors and anaesthetists.

However, the campaign group Save Friarage Hospital has warned that the changes could have a significant impact, not only on services at the site but also at other hospitals in the area.

The group has instructed specialist public law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the situation, and have now applied to the High Court for a judicial review to be held into the legality of the suspension of NHS services.

Helen Smith, the lawyer acting on behalf of the Save Friarage Hospital group, said: “The group is extremely worried by recent events related to the Friarage and after looking into its concerns we consider that there is clear merit in the decision-making process regarding the suspension to be reviewed.

“This issue goes beyond the pure health services on offer in Northallerton, as the suspension would undoubtedly affect ambulance services, other local hospitals and the rural communities in a number of different ways."

The CCG said it is not in a position to comment at this time except to emphasise that the changes to services at the Friarage are temporary and the definitive service model for the Friarage is not confirmed at this stage.

A meeting organised by the campaign group took place on Friday evening – for a full report see The Northern Echo on Monday.