Patients who suffer a stroke in Whitby could soon find themselves being taken to York for treatment.
The move has been announced by York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Whitby Hospital, and will come into force from July.
Bosses insist the change is a temporary measure brought about by major problems in recruiting replacements for stroke consultants who are due to retire this summer.
A spokeswoman explained that for Whitby residents, this will mean that they will be taken to the nearest A&E department depending on where they live – either James Cook in Middlesbrough or Scarborough Hospital.
She said: “Patients who are within an appropriate distance of Scarborough Hospital will first be taken there for assessment and, if stroke is confirmed, given clot busting drugs (thrombolysis) before being transferred to York.
“Specialist acute stroke care is typically needed for around 72 hours after a stroke has been confirmed.
“Once medically stable, patients will be transferred back to Scarborough Hospital to receive the appropriate level of rehabilitation.”
Mike Proctor, deputy chief executive at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Many parts of the country are struggling to recruit stroke consultants so this issue is not unique to Scarborough.
“We are extremely disappointed that we have been unable to recruit and subsequently had to impose this measure, as we remain fully committed to providing a hyper-acute service at Scarborough Hospital.
“We will continue to try to recruit additional stroke consultants, however, until we are successful this measure will have to remain in place.
“We fully appreciate that patients want to receive care as close to home as possible, but maintaining patient safety has to be the number one priority in order to guarantee the best possible outcome for stroke patients.”
“It is also important to highlight that, for most stroke patients, they will only need to be at York Hospital for around three days. Once they are medically stable they will return to Scarborough for rehabilitation. “There will be some changes to how stroke rehabilitation is delivered in support of this interim measure. Specialist intensive stroke rehabilitation for patients on the East Coast will be delivered at Scarborough Hospital.
“This will help us improve specialist stroke rehabilitation and not dilute the skills we have by trying to deliver this service to relatively small numbers of patients on two sites.
“General rehabilitation for Bridlington residents will still be available at Bridlington Hospital, including more general rehabilitation following stroke.
“Rehabilitation services at Bridlington will be consolidated and delivered from a single ward.”