Dales minor injuries services saved following Rishi Sunak’s intervention

Minor injuries services at three Yorkshire Dales GP practices are to continue after health chiefs reconsidered a decision to cut their funding.

Health chiefs are to keep funding the service at three practices – in Reeth, Hawes and Aysgarth – following the intervention of Richmond MP Rishi Sunak.

The MP pointed out that cutting the service would mean patients having to travel further and put them at risk of a more serious condition because of delayed treatment.

In a letter to the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby Clinical Commissioning Group (HRW CCG) – which buys health services for local people – Mr Sunak said the withdrawal of the funding would hit the most rural practices hardest.

The HRW CCG – which buys health services for local people – had originally decided to cut the funding for all GP practices because it is already funding minor injuries services at the Friarage Hospital, Northallerton, and paying for patients to be treated at Darlington Memorial.

But Mr Sunak said while this was justified for practices close to existing minor injuries units, it was unfair to the patients of the most isolated practices.

He wrote: “The circumstances of these practices are very different from those based near to the major towns with A&E/minor injuries units. Reasonably convenient access to appropriate healthcare is a priority for residents in this part of my constituency. Sensible policy ought to be able to differentiate between these different types of surgeries and it does seem to defy logic that "a blanket approach or nothing at all" is a the only way to proceed.”

He added that the original plan could well have turned out to be counter-productive.

“The GPs fear that the long distances to the nearest minor injuries unit may discourage patients from seeking treatment promptly. This, in turn, may mean a more serious condition, such as an infection, develops and ultimately leads to more expensive secondary care/admission to treat.”

The CCG’s U-turn in relation to the most rural practices was revealed in a letter to Mr Sunak from Amanda Bloor, the accountable officer for the Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby CCG.

She acknowledged his concern about the special circumstances of the practices in Wensleydale and Swaledale, saying that funding would continue at the Reeth Medical Practice and the Central Dales Practice, which has surgeries at Aysgarth and Hawes, because they were more than 25 miles from any urgent care centre.

He said: “I am very pleased that the CCG has responded so positively. While I understand the logic of not paying for a minor injuries service twice in Northallerton, I pointed out to the CCG that this decision didn’t make sense in very rural areas.

“Indeed, the policy might have cost more money because relatively minor cuts and burns, for example, might not be treated promptly or at all which would then lead to complications

Marie Brooks, managing partner at the Reeth Medical Practice, welcomed the decision. “This is a very important part of the overall service we offer to patients who are a long way from the nearest hospital-based minor injuries unit. We are relieved that the funding will continue beyond April 1

Mr Sunak also lobbied the CCG on behalf of the medical practice at Leyburn. Funding for the service there will be withdrawn because the CCG argues that the requirements are covered by a Yorkshire Ambulance Service paramedic who is based there permanently.