Whitby health clinics axed - leaving patients facing a 20-mile journey for appointments

Hundreds of clinics are being axed at a Yorkshire hospital after NHS chiefs ruled they were no longer 'financially viable'.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 29th November 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 10:30 am

Patients including pregnant women, children and the elderly could face a 20-mile trek for routine appointments at the nearest hospital if the changes in Whitby go ahead.

The decision comes amid wider uncertainty over the future provision of hospital services on Yorkshire’s coast which is among the areas worst hit by financial and staffing problems engulfing the NHS.

The scale of the national financial crisis will be underlined tomorrow by health chiefs who are expected to set out stark cuts facing services in England in the wake of last week’s Budget.

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Yesterday bosses at York Hospital NHS trust said they had been left “with no choice but to withdraw” from outpatient care in Whitby next May.

A spokesman said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, however it is not financially viable for us to continue.”

Their clinicians run nearly 600 clinics each year at the town’s hospital across 13 specialties including elderly medicine, orthopaedics, obstetrics, paediatrics, eye services and physiotherapy.

But the trust has been plunged into major financial difficulties and for the first time in its history has been forced to take a £17m loan to enable it to continue paying its bills.

Latest figures for 2017-18 reveal it is running a deficit of around £21m - £14.5m worse than expected.

It is facing further pressure after NHS chiefs singled out Vale of York, Scarborough and Ryedale as one of the financially worst-performing areas in England, ordering local officials to make extra savings.

Its withdrawal puts a major questionmark over an ambitious redevelopment of Whitby’s hospital due to begin in April, with the first patients treated in 2020.

Last night Bernard Chalk, interim director of finance at NHS Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said it was pursuing alternative options to provide care in the town from May.

“We would like to reassure patients and local residents that, as the commissioner of local health services, we are completely committed to maintaining as many services on the hospital site and within Whitby and the surrounding area as possible.

“We can also confirm our commitment to the remodelling of the Whitby Hospital site. We will make every effort to ensure outpatient services remain part of the wider plan.”

Coun Jim Clark, chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s health scrutiny committee, said it was clear the financial situation was “bleak”.

“They really need to have these clinics in Whitby, particularly if we are going to have a new hospital there,” he said.

Outpatients services in Whitby will end in May unless a new provider can be found. Work is getting underway into a wider reconfiguration of hospital care provided by the York NHS trust, with services heavily reliant on temporary staffing said to be most at risk. Its exit from Whitby comes two years after it gave up ownership of the town’s hospital.