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The future of children's services at Friarage Hospital


12:43pm 25th January 2012

Leading GPs and hospital clinicians will be engaging with the public on the future of children's services at the Friarage hospital in Northallerton.

Members of the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plan to lead a three-month public engagement exercise from March this year following recommendations from paediatricians at the Friarage and the publication of independent advice from the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT). 

The CCG is an emerging organisation led by local GPs which is aiming to take control of local NHS decision-making in the coming year as part of the Health and Social Care Bill.

The CCG has been in discussions with clinicians and managers from South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust about the future of children's and maternity services for many months after senior doctors raised concerns regarding the long term sustainability of some services at the Friarage.

This has been backed by an independent report by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT). The NCAT are part of the Department of Health and provide clinical experts to support, advise and guide the local NHS on service reconfiguration proposals to ensure safe, effective and accessible services for patients. 

The review team's advice is that, while a first class service is currently being provided by staff at the hospitals Trust, the inpatient paediatric service at the Friarage is not sustainable for the future because:

  • of the difficulty of maintaining a workforce with the right skills, and
  • if children are sick and need inpatient care, they should be cared for in a unit which has a full range of paediatric services backed up by high dependency and intensive care facilities, which the Friarage Hospital cannot provide.

The NCAT report was commissioned by Dr Vicky Pleydell, a local GP and the Shadow Accountable Officer for the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group.

Dr Pleydell said:

"As local leaders of the NHS, we are committed to the future of the Friarage Hospital and making it a vibrant and sustainable hospital for our patients.

"As with many smaller hospitals across the country it faces a number of challenges. Children's and maternity services are particular issues at the Friarage that we need to address now. I must stress that this is not about saving money but more about using the available money to invest in good quality and safe services that can stand up for years to come.

"No changes will be proposed without listening to local people. If we need to develop proposals for significant changes to services they will be subject to full public consultation.

"We plan to start a period of public engagement in the spring to allow people to gain a greater understanding of the current situation, the proposals put forward by the NCAT and any issues they would like us to consider as part of our decision-making process.

"We want to make this a real, open and honest discussion with the public, focusing especially on the views and concerns of young families across the locality who will be most affected by any change of service.

"This will be done in conjunction with clinical staff and managers from the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who, as providers of services, need to advise us on what is clinically safe and operationally deliverable."

Jill Moulton, Director of Planning at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:

"Children's services at the Friarage Hospital are highly valued by the local population. However our ability to deliver and sustain such high quality services has come under increasing pressure.

"The NCAT report has backed the concerns raised by doctors and the clinical staff caring for children at the hospital, in that whilst the services we provide are safe and of high quality, we will struggle to sustain them in the longer-term.

"A lot more work needs to be done to understand what would be the best model of care for the future. We want to have those wider discussions with the local population about why change in children's and maternity services are thought to be needed and what the shape of these services should be."

The report "Paediatric Services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton" produced by the National Clinical Advisory Team will be considered by the Boards of NHS North Yorkshire and York (the primary care trust which remains statutorily accountable for local NHS services until April 2013), the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

More information and a copy of the report can be found online at: www.nyypct.nhs.uk


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