THE leader of an influential health watchdog says he fears the needs of North Yorkshire residents will be overlooked following a major NHS reorganisation.

Ahead of stepping down after nine years as chairman of the county’s scrutiny of health committee, Councillor Jim Clark said NHS services in North Yorkshire faced being sidelined as part of the Government’s ten-year plan to improve the quality of patient care and health outcomes.

The plan includes measures to prevent 150,000 heart attacks, strokes and dementia cases, and better access to mental health services for adults and children, but Cllr Clark said its structure did not fit North Yorkshire, which is surrounded by large hospitals. He said it was possible the county could be split into three distinct areas for health provision.

Cllr Clark said: “Where do you manage to get a strong enough voice for the Friarage in Northallerton when that integrated care system is dealing with large hospitals in Newcastle, Carlisle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough? How are they going to get a fair crack of the whip? We need to make a very strong case for the people of North Yorkshire.”

He also highlighted how he believed it would be “very difficult” for the NHS in North Yorkshire to keep to its budget, which over the past decade has resulted in a number of services being cut. He said in 2012, the county had the worst-performing primary care trust in the country with a deficit of £20m, but by March last year the deficit had doubled to £40m and there had not been “any major change”.

He said: “I have fought for the NHS for the whole of my life - I’m a year older than the NHS - and it has struggled at times.

“While we might be getting some of these problems dealt with with extra money it still poses a number of challenges for North Yorkshire.”

Cllr Clark said he counted keeping children’s heart surgery in both Leeds and Newcastle as the biggest victory during his tenure in the post. He said: “I managed to convince everybody on a joint scrutiny committee for 15 councils we should keep both because of the large distances in North England and merge the service with adult heart surgery.”

Cllr Clark said he would keep fighting for NHS provision as a member of the committee.