A REPORT commissioned by MP Rishi Sunak into emergency services at Northallerton’s Friarage Hospital has concluded that the health trust has made a strong case to downgrade provision.

The independent report from healthcare management consultancy Carnall Farrar will come as a blow to campaigners, who are currently working on a legal battle with South Tees Hospital Trust against the decision to downgrade A&E to an urgent treatment centre (UTC).

The report surveyed A&E services across the UK and showed that it was extremely rare for a hospital of the Friarage’s size to be able to maintain full A&E provision, and much larger hospitals had already had to make similar changes due to similar staffing issues.

The report found that while the trust had made good efforts to recruit doctors and anaesthetists, more could still be done to recruit from overseas.

It also advised that the trust increased its focus on developing existing nurses as emergency nurse practitioners, and that a national recruitment drive should be undertaken to find more. It found it was also important to continue to work with Yorkshire Ambulance Service to ensure appropriate patients are brought to the Friarage, and plan for opportunities to return patients to community care if they need to be transported to James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough or Darlington Memorial Hospital.

The report also found the trust’s estimate that only ten per cent of patients who would have attended the old A&E and have to be treated elsewhere has proved to be correct, and experience elsewhere shows a small increase in ambulance travel times for a small number of patients does not lead to increased patient mortality.

“Patients with time-critical illness are not affected. The new UTC has treated almost 40 per cent more

children than were looked after in the old A&E department.

Mr Sunak said: “The report clearly shows that the Friarage is not alone in facing these staffing challenges, and indeed many much larger hospitals have had to make similar changes to their A&E provision.

“It also concludes that the trust has a reasonable case to make changes, that the new care model can be safe and effective and will increase the number of children that can be treated. I will continue to push the trust to ensure proper recruitment and training.”

Carnall Farrar has previously completed a number of detailed reports focussing on both regional and national healthcare services.

The Save The Friarage Hospital campaign group has declined to comment.

The full 79-page report can be found at rishisunak.com.