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Council warned to end legal battle over maternity reconfiguration

A local authority in North Yorkshire looks set to abandon its lengthy fight over the loss of hospital maternity services after a barrister warned it had little chance of successful legal action.

Richmondshire District Council has fought a long campaign against a plan by Hambleton, Whitby and Richmondshire Clinical Commissioning Group to replace a consultant-led maternity service with a midwife-led unit at Friarage Hospital, which is run by South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust.

In June, health secretary Jeremy Hunt backed the CCG’s plan to move the services to hospitals in Darlington and Middlesbrough.

The council previously said it had been prepared to take Mr Hunt’s decision to judicial review.

But a report to the council from its corporate director for strategy and governance Callum McKeon said advice from Philip Havers QC indicated “on the balance of probabilities there is a realistic chance that the legal action would be unsuccessful”.

The report said: “Generally, officers do not advise the expenditure of public funds in promoting or defending legal actions unless there is a probability of success.”

The report is due to be discussed at a full council meeting tomorrow night at which councillors will decide whether to abandon their proposed judicial review.

The reconfiguration plans have been in development for nearly three years. They are backed by South Tees Hospitals Foundation Trust and all the GP practices in the area, which voted in favour of the proposals in February.

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