Rally over Friarage Hospital paediatric closure plan

Protesters outside Northallerton County Hall A public consultation on the proposals is under way

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Hundreds of people have taken part in a rally against the possible closure of the paediatric department at a North Yorkshire hospital.

Paediatric care at Northallerton's Friarage Hospital could be moved to James Cook University Hospital, 22 miles (35km) away, in Middlesbrough.

Protesters marched to the hospital after the rally at the county hall.

William Hague, the Conservative MP for Richmond, who has called for a rethink, addressed the crowd.

'Too far'

He said: "It's a really important hospital and I think people from outside the area don't realise the distances involved.

"Without this hospital those who live at the top of Wensleydale would have a round trip of over 100 miles to Middlesbrough and back to go to a maternity unit.

"Well that is too far, it would be one of the longest distances in England."

A report published in January by the National Clinical Advisory Team (NCAT) said the unit was not sustainable.

It said the hospital provided a first-class service but in relation to paediatric services it expressed concerns about the hospital being able to maintain a workforce with the right skills.

It also said if children needed inpatient care they should be cared for in a unit which has a full range of services backed up by high dependency and intensive care facilities.

A scaling-back of maternity services was also included in the report's recommendations.

The NCAT report is being considered by the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both the Friarage and James Cook hospitals.

A public consultation process is under way.

A petition against the proposal has been signed by more than 10,000 people.

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