THE former chairman of an influential health watchdog has backed a call by an NHS boss for campaigners to abandon legal action over the closure of an accident and emergency unit.

Councillor Jim Clark, who has battled to retain key hospital services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton for more than a decade, said he believed the time and energy of the Save The Friarage Hospital campaigners would be better spent on shaping a public consultation over future services at the infirmary.

Cllr Clark made the comments days after Richmond MP Rishi Sunak published an independent report which concluded South Tees NHS Trust has made a strong case to downgrade provision.

Last month the trust’s medical director, Dr Adrian Clements, told North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee, campaigners to drop their battle as it was costing an “awful lot of money”. However, the campaign group said it would continue with its judicial review action.

Former scrutiny of health committee chairman Cllr Clark said: “I think the campaigners would be better served putting their efforts on helping shape what services will look like at the Friarage in the future. The consultation should be treated an opportunity, and if people don’t get what they consider is required, that is when the scrutiny of health would pick it up.”