The national boss of the National Health Service accepted an invitation from local MP Rishi Sunak to see the care being delivered by the Friarage Hospital.
Mr Sunak invited Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, to Northallerton so he could show him the hospital’s vital role in providing health care to a rural area.
During his visit Mr Stevens spent time with the medical teams in the North Yorkshire hospital’s urgent treatment centre, clinical decisions unit and the operating theatres suite.
Mr Stevens’ tour of the departments was led by Dr James Dunbar, the Friarage’s clinical director. Also present was Sue Page, interim chief executive of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Mr Sunak said he was delighted that Mr Stevens had taken up his invitation to visit the Friarage.
He said: “Mr Stevens has spoken about the importance of supporting smaller, rural hospitals and his visit here was an great opportunity to show him how the Friarage can operate safely and effectively despite the challenges small hospitals can face.
He added: “The Friarage is an excellent hospital with an important role to play in delivering local NHS services long into the future.
“I wanted the NHS’ boss to see the impressive work that the doctors, nurses and other medical and support staff are doing here to provide a good range of services and the plans they have to extend the NHS work that is done on the site.
“The Friarage has a very good future ahead and it was important to show Mr Stevens what can be done in such a setting. Dr Dunbar and his team are doing an amazing job in developing a sustainable care model which includes emergency treatment, surgery and bringing more work here from the James Cook University Hospital.
“It also gave the doctors and the Trust the chance to make the case for more investment in the hospital’s facilities, which I support 100 per cent.”
Mr Sunak said the visit also presented an opportunity to receive an update from Dr Dunbar on how the urgent treatment centre had been operating since it replaced the A&E department in March. Clinical outcomes had been good and the number of children treated at the Friarage had increased dramatically.
A consultation is underway examining two options for the urgent treatment centre. Mr Sunak is backing the current 24/7 model in preference to the second option – a UTC operating 16 hours a day.
Mr Sunak’s support for the 24/7 option was last week formally supported by the full council of Richmondshire District Council.