HEALTH chiefs have respond-ed to growing anger over plans to shift most out-of-hours doctors' cover from the Ripon area to Harrogate or Northallerton.

Doctors, patients and community workers are protesting over the decision by Craven, Harrogate and Rural District Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Skipton and Ripon MP David Curry will meet concerned doctors next Friday to discuss the plans to cut out-of- hours service in Ripon and surrounding area.

Some GPs believe removing most of the service from Ripon Community Hospital could affect its future, but this has been denied by the PCT.

Protest petitions are being organised against the slimmed down out of hours service, due to start next month.

Janet Probert, director of nursing at the PCT, said it had taken over the service in February, replacing North Yorkshire Emergency Doctors, which had financial problems.

Ms Probert said an out-of-hours service across the trust area had been developed by two experienced GPs.

At the moment, patients calling Ripon Primary Care Centre out-of-hours receive either telephone advice or a home visit, and Ms Probert said this would continue if they had to call the centre in Harrogate.

Meanwhile, Ripon Primary Care Centre will continue to operate during normal hours when there is demand for its service.

When it is shut, patients will have to travel to use another centre.

The scheme, says the PCT, means investing an additional £650,000 in out of hours services.