CAMPAIGNERS battling to restore a hospital bus service which was axed more than two years ago say elderly and ill patients 'are being left high and dry'.

The dedicated bus service, which ran between the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton and James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, was used by staff and patients but was stopped by Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which said it was underused and cost too much.

Changes to other scheduled services since have added to the problems for people trying to get to and from the Friarage to James Cook.

Now Northallerton Over Fifties Forum (NAOFF) is calling for the restoration of a shuttle bus service.

The group is proposing to carry out a survey of residents, while also taking up the issue with bus companies.

Members are asking the health authorities to survey staff, as when the previous service was operating up to 38 per cent of the passengers were NHS workers.

Jack Dobson, chairman of NAOFF, said: “This really is desperately important.

"I know that some elderly people have had to pay up to £70 in taxi fares just to get backwards and forwards to James Cook from Northallerton.

"It’s deplorable and money they can’t afford.

“People are being left high and dry because to try to get to James Cook by train or bus they have to leave at something like 6.30am in the morning.

"It is a ludicrous situation and people worry about it if they know they have an appointment at the hospital.

"This has to be properly addressed.

"Many people have been asking about the reinstatement of the shuttle bus.

"We are quite happy to talk to passengers and potential bus companies – it may be a charge has to be looked at.

“The most important thing is that we do explore every avenue to get this bus put back on.

"Not everyone has someone who can take them to hospital and they may not be able to drive or are concerned about car parking at James Cook.

"People feel they have lost so much at the Friarage already, it’s important that this is really looked at properly and a shuttle bus is reinstated, hopefully on a two hourly basis.”

Dr Charles Parker, Clinical Chair of NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby (CCG) said: “We welcome the views of Northallerton Over Fifties Forum and would be happy to consider the findings of their research with colleagues from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.”

The bus service was first introduced as a pilot scheme in October 2014 after consultant-led maternity and children’s services were downgraded at the Friarage.

In March 2015 the service was extended due to rising demand, but just a year later the CCG placed it under review and a public petition calling for it to be saved attracted widespread support.