I am deeply concerned about the temporarary changes to the services provided by the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton. The South Tees Hospital NHS Foundation has announced that, because of a shortage of doctors, some of the most critically ill patients will be sent to the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesborough or Darlington Memorial Hospital. My parliamentary neighbour Richmond MP Rishi Sunak and I are writing to the Trust to oppose this downgrade and to challenge them on what efforts they are making to recruit new doctors. Our concern is that these changes could be the thin end of the wedge and might lead to the withdrawal of more services in the future.
The Trust says that nine out of ten patients will be unaffected by these changes and that it is only those with major trauma and serious illnesses such as strokes, head or spinal injuries who will require specialist treatment at neighbouring hospitals. Mr Sunak and I have been urging the Trust to review its recruitment processes for over a year and we will be seeking an explanation as to why it has been unable to recruit the necessary additional doctors to fill the vacant places to keep the services running smoothly. We will also want assurances that the hospital will retain as much capacity as possible to treat as many patients as possible whilst these temporary measures are in place.
I have received a number of letters from constituents who are understandably worried about the effect these new measures will have on their treatment and the inconvenience of the much longer journey to Middlesbrough or Darlington.