Legal challenge over A&E services shelved at the last minute
Whilst this is the right decision, it does mean we don’t get a much needed judicial review on the process requirements for ‘temporary’ service changes. Below is more on the story.
Campaigners say High Court legal action into the suspension of accident and emergency services at The Friarage hospital in Northallerton has now been shelved.
They have told Minster FM they were not confident of any success and the NHS has agreed to hold a full consultation. South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust took the step to replace A&E services at the hospital with an urgent care treatment centre at the end of March, with management claiming it was due to problems with the recruitment of key staff including doctors and anaesthetists. However, the ‘Save Friarage Hospital’ group went on to launch a campaign, arguing that the step could have a major impact both in the community and also on services at other nearby hospitals.
This led a local resident to instruct Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team to investigate the situation. Lawyers were granted permission for a judicial review to be held examining the legality of the decision on the grounds that the Trust had failed to engage with the public or the local council regarding the decision to suspend the A&E service.
The case was due to be heard in the High Court.
However, the hearing has now been vacated after the NHS Trust – in conjunction with NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) agreed to hold a full consultation into services at the hospital.
As part of the agreement the Trust will continue to review the possibility of re-opening the hospital’s A&E throughout the consultation period.
Helen Smith, the solicitor representing the local residents and campaign group:
“While we appreciate that the NHS is facing many challenges, our clients have said all along that those directly affected by the suspension of A&E services at The Friarage had not been properly consulted.
We welcome this agreement and the Health Trust’s pledge to keep reviewing the re-opening the A&E department at the Friarage Hospital, something which our clients’ were always concerned about.
It is now vital that the CCG carries out a full and transparent consultation, with an open mind on all the options including reinstating the A & E and other services at the Friarage, allowing residents to have the opportunity to fully take part in the decision making process.”
The Save Friarage Hospital group has said that the suspension of A&E services at The Friarage has led to the loss of hospital beds in both the emergency ward and the intensive treatment unit.
Holly Wilkinson of the Save Friarage Hospital:
“We will continue to campaign to safeguard the future or the Friarage hospital and are currently seeking like minded individuals to support us in this task.
South Tees trust has never before been challenged in this way and we hope it will at least serve as a warning that we will not be ignored and that changes at our beloved hospital must be consulted on fully with the public who rely on them not made by the board of South Tees solely.”
A spokesman for South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust:
“We are pleased that the campaigners have decided to drop their legal action and settle the case.
We can now focus our efforts on carrying out a full public consultation.
We have always stated that we would carry out a full public consultation and this has always been our intention.
The consultation will be led by Hambleton Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group. We expect this consultation to begin in September.
This article originally appeared on Minister Fm
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