Closing down hospital ‘is not an option’

ESSENTIAL savings needed in Harrogate’s health economy would not lead to the closure of the district hospital, a councillor has insisted.

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of the Scrutiny of Health Committee at North Yorkshire County Council, also said that no beds would be lost unless they were no longer needed.

He was responding to a report released last week by the region’s Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which said health services in the area should make radical changes to save £230m by 2015.

In order to make the necessary savings, the report recommended that hospital beds be closed and that the region make a move towards more community-based care within patients’ homes.

It went on to suggest that if these savings are not made, it might be deemed necessary to close at least one of the region’s general or community hospitals.

But Coun Clark has said the town can be confident that its hopsital would not be closed.

He said: “The only way we can get better care is by good integration between the local authority, the NHS, the GPs and the acute hospital.

“It’s only after we don’t need them any more that we can start reducing the number of beds.”

He added: “The second option is to close the district hospital and that is totally unnaceptable.

“People should be confident that this isn’t going to happen.

“It would be completely unacceptable to close either Harrogate District Hospital or Ripon Community Hospital and that’s not going to happen.”

Coun Clark met with the author of the report, Professor Hugo Mascie-Taylor, over the weekend, to discuss the 44 essential recommendations it made which aim to improve an increasingly dire financial position in the area.

Coun Clark said: “I wanted to follow up on some of the recommendations he was making.

“The key to the plan now is how we move forward and that’s what my committee will be looking at.

“The next thing to do is to talk with the SHA and to see how we are going to implement this plan.”

Traditionally NHS North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) has carried a debt of around £18m because of overspending.

Over the last two years, the SHA has provided a total of £30m in non-repayable financial support which has made this situation bearable.

However, with the SHAs set to be abolished in 2013 the PCT will not be able to rely on this support any longer to achieve the financial balance necessary in order to hand over control to the NHS Commissioning Board in 2013.