CAMPAIGN group Save the Friarage Hospital is calling on volunteers with clinical and legal backgrounds to join them in their battle to preserve services.

A full consultation is due to be held by South Tees NHS Foundation Trust after campaigners launched a legal challenge into the downgrading of hospital A&E services at the Friarage in Northallerton to an urgent care treatment centre.

Holly Wilkinson, Campaign Lead for the group said: "The terrible flooding in the Dales last week emphasised the problems our communities have, many are isolated and services are thin on the ground, we need the Friarage as a fully functioning hospital with the widest range of services possible. It's important we get back what we have lost and preserve it.

"We want to present the best possible case we can so that when the consultation starts we have the information and the knowledge available to help us fight for this absolutely essential hospital.

"We are particularly looking for people who have clinical backgrounds, legal backgrounds or financial backgrounds. Anyone with knowledge and experience in these fields who is prepared to get involved and help us will be a bonus, we have already started work on this but we have to make sure we can put forward our arguments."

Anyone who can help email

South Tees NHS Foundation Trust was heavily criticised after announcing at the end of March they were making temporary changes to A&E services at the Friarage creating the urgent treatment centre. They said this meant the majority of patients at A&E would still be cared for at Northallerton except for critical care patients who would be looked after at the James Cook University Hospital or Darlington Memorial Hospital. Managers at the hospitals said the changes had to be made because of major problems with recruitment of key staff particularly doctors and anaesthetists.

Critical Care patients include people who require significant intervention and support to help them with breathing or heart function, patients who have suffered major injuries, serious illnesses or complex surgery.

Helen Smith, solicitor and public law expert representing the Save the Friarage Group said: "While we appreciate that the NHS is facing many challenges, our clients said all along those directly affected by the suspension of A&E services had not been properly consulted."

The Trust and NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group said they had always stated they would carry out a full public consultation into changes at the Friarage Hospital. The CCG said yesterday the date has not yet been finalised but is due shortly.