HEALTH campaigners have spoken of their heartbreak after NHS bosses unveiled proposals to “secure the future” of key services at a general hospital which did not include an option to retain its accident and emergency department.

Save the Friarage Hospital group leaders have accused South Tees NHS Trust of reneging on an agreement it made ahead of a High Court hearing in July to include an option to reopen the Northallerton infirmary’s emergency department.

The trust said it would be “dishonest” to offer an option of retaining the department as it was not a realistic possibility, and instead was launching a consultation on whether the Northallerton infirmary should have an urgent treatment centre for 16 or 24 hours a day.

The trust said the urgent treatment centre would be supported by “a responsive front-of-house emergency medical model”, which would deal with about 90 per cent of urgent and emergency patients presenting themselves.

Ahead of North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee approving a 12-week public consultation over the changes, the trust’s medical director Adrian Clements told members the centre would be the same as the one introduced there in March after being unable to recruit medics to staff an emergency department.

He said over the first six months of the urgent treatment centre it had taken 97 per cent of the cases that would have gone through the emergency department.

Mr Clements said: “The population of Hambleton and Richmondshire are obviously using the service and using the service in great numbers.”

After councillors questioned whether the trust had a preferred option, highlighting that the 16-hour centre option would be £250,000 cheaper annually, trust bosses said the 16-hour option would be “more sustainable”.

Councillors praised the trust on the consultation, but raised concerns that those wishing to attend one of 12 public meetings in towns across Hambleton and Richmondshire may be put off by having to reserve a place.

After the meeting Holly Wilkinson, leader of the Save the Friarage Hospital campaign group, said the trust had “completely gone against what it said it would do in the court order”. She said the campaign group would be reviewing its options.

Ms Wilkinson said: “It breaks my heart. This makes me so much more determined to fight because a lot of people rely on that hospital. Staff morale is the lowest its ever been - I heard on Wednesday there were only two patient trolleys to transfer patients around at the Friarage.”

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak welcomed the start of the consultation. He said: “What the hospital, its patients and staff need above all is certainty about the future and I trust the consultation will deliver that. I urge constituents to take part and make their views known.”

To register to attend one of the public events, visit

For details on the consultation, visit or call 01609-531397.