CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save A&E services have been given permission for a judicial review.

Save Friarage Hospital group earlier this year launched a campaign against the decision to temporarily suspend A&E services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said it took the step due to problems with the recruitment of key staff, including doctors and anaesthetists.

However, Save Friarage Hospital group argued the decision could have a major impact both in the community and put pressure on services at nearby hospitals.

In April, the campaign group instructed Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team to investigate the situation where lawyers applied for a judicial review to be held in the High Court into the legality of the suspension of A&E services.

Following a hearing yesterday in Leeds Combined Court, the group and their lawyers have been granted permission to continue with their legal battle.

The campaign group claimed the temporary suspension of A&E services at The Friarage has led to the loss of hospital beds in both the emergency ward and the intensive treatment unit.

The group also expressed concern that the move will have a particular impact on both the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Darlington Memorial Hospital, which divert patients to The Friarage when they are at capacity.

Holly Wilkinson, of the Save Friarage Hospital group, said: “One of the most concerning aspects of this recent move is that it could potentially put lives at risk – and that is simply unacceptable.

“We have campaigned long and hard on this issue and it is very welcome that our concerns are being treated seriously.

"The green light for the judicial review is great news and we hope this will all ultimately lead to the decision to suspend A&E services being overturned.

"This move simply has to be reconsidered.”

A spokesperson for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust yesterday said: "Today’s appeal to seek permission to proceed with a judicial review on the temporary urgent changes to the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, has been heard by the High Court.

"The judge determined that the only grounds for the review to proceed is to look at whether consultation should have taken place with the public or the local authority prior to the decision on the urgent temporary change and if due consideration had been given to disadvantaged groups.

"The judge refused permission for the review to proceed on the grounds of irrationality and that we had failed to conduct sufficient enquiries before taking the decision.

"We are involved in constructive dialogue with those bringing the review.

"We have always stated that it is our intention to ensure that there is a full public consultation to agree on a long term, safe and sustainable future service model for the Friarage Hospital and this is scheduled to begin on September 13 2019."

Helen Smith, who is representing the Save Friarage Hospital group, said: “Our clients have long-held concerns regarding the suspension of A&E services at The Friarage.

"We strongly believe that the process used to come to such conclusions should be reviewed.

“Our clients do not want be in this position but feel that they have little option because of how they feel the trust and CCG have made these changes to hospital services without appreciating the full impact.

“It is welcome that the judicial review will proceed and we are determined to work with our clients to ensure that their voices are heard on this very serious matter.”