NHS bosses have dismissed claims they have downgraded and delayed plans for a much-anticipated overhaul of NHS facilities and services for one of England's largest and most rural districts.

North Yorkshire clinical commissioning group was responding after a full meeting of Richmondshire District Council heard the opening of Catterick Intergrated Care Campus scheme had been put back by a year to 2024.

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Councillors were told despite NHS figures having previously advised the scheme would feature MRI and ultrasound scanners, it had now been suggested by NHS bosses at a recent meeting that the key pieces of equipment would not be part of the joint civilian-military initiative.

The North Yorkshire NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) statement comes six months after it issued a joint press release with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to announce their plan for a state of the art care campus which would look after soldiers and civilians under one roof had been approved by the government.

The aim of the campus is to deliver GP and primary care as well as a range of additional services such as mental health, maternity, sexual health, drug and alcohol and social care.

The joint statement in April also revealed it was planned to open the care campus in 2023.

The announcement in April was met with widespread approval.

Concerns have increased over access to NHS service provision for Richmondshire in recent years, as residents have faced lengthier journeys for some treatments as some key services have been centralised at hospitals such as James Cook University Hospital, Middlesbrough.

NHS bosses have stated the campus initiative would be a response to that issue as well as the growth of Catterick Garrison, which is currently home to over 13,000 soldiers and their families, and is expecting to become home to thousands more soldiers over the next decade.

Alongside the campus, plans are underway to create a town centre, kick start businesses, build new family accommodation, offices and garages, while sports and leisure facilities are also in the pipeline.

The authority's external scrutiny committee chair, Councillor Pat Middlemiss told the council meeting she was "disappointed" as the NHS appeared to have downgraded their initial proposals for the campus, and that some of the focus seemed to have shifted towards providing fitness facilities.

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She said when the NHS was asked if it could advise if the campus scheme remained on schedule to open in 2023, a written response to the meeting stated: "The current aim is for the project to be completed in 2024 now, due to a more detailed analysis of the buildings and service requirements."

After the meeting Cllr Middlemiss added: "We were led to believe it would be more than it is. We understood that they were going to have facilities there such as ultrasound and an MRI scanner.

"They seem to be downgrading it."

She added NHS bosses had said the campus was to feature "trim tracks and things for the military", which she said was more about keeping fit than health provision.

She said: "The whole point in having these shared services between the miitary and civilians was that we hoped key services and much better facilities would be available locally.

"There is a lot of elderly people in the area and a lot of them don't drive, so how are they supposed to get to places like James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough?"

However, NHS sources have said there has been no downgrade of the proposals, which remain in line with the vision that was first put forward and discussions were held about with community groups.

They said along with many projects across the NHS, the programme has also experienced challenges brought by the pandemic.

In a joint response, the CCG, MOD and NHS Property Services said they, together with other partners, remained committed to delivering a new first-class health and care facility for the population of Richmondshire.

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It stated working through the necessary approvals and processes took time.

It added: "We are unable to provide a final completion date at this stage until the relevant approvals are in place but the current aim is for the Catterick Integrated Care Campus to be ready for providers and patients by 2024.

"Partners have recently confirmed support to progress to the Develop the Preferred Option stage, which gives us the opportunity to carry out further engagement on current proposals, so we are delivering the best possible solution to meet the needs of Catterick and the wider Richmondshire area.

"Details of services are still being worked through with partners and we were grateful for the suggestion of an ultrasound scanner which we will explore further.

"We look forward to having further conversations with the community in and around Catterick as the project develops."

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