Changes to children’s and maternity services at a North Yorkshire hospital are coming into force.
The Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, will now no longer provide overnight children’s care.
And from Monday, only women deemed low risk will be able to give birth at the hospital. Those assessed as high risk must go to Middleborough or Darlington.
The plans, first announced in 2011, led to protests, a petition and criticism from Conservative MP William Hague.
The overnight children’s ward will be replaced by a “short-stay paediatric unit”, with those children requiring an overnight stay being sent elsewhere.
Consultant paediatrician Dr Ruth Roberts said: “Our philosophy in children’s services has, for many years, been to keep children out of hospital where possible.”
Meanwhile, the hospital’s special baby care unit will close on 6 October and a new maternity centre – staffed by midwives rather than doctors – will open.
Head of midwifery and gynaecology Yvonne Regan added: “These changes are being made purely on the grounds of safety and the future long-term sustainability of services – the safety of our women and babies has to be our number one priority.”
The changes were approved by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in May following a review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel
Councillor Jim Clark, chair of the Conservative-controlled North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee, has previously described the changes as “disappointing”.