COUNCILLORS have welcomed plans to expand the range of services at the University Hospital of Hartlepool.

Yesterday, officials from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust gave details of plans to increase the range and scale of activities at the hospital.

It has lost a number of important acute services in recent years - including accident and emergency - but officials say they now want to reverse the one-way traffic to the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton.

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The officials have revealed plans to relocate cardiac diagnostic services at Hartlepool to the front of the hospital to make them more accessible and integrated.

Urology tests, which are only available from the North Tees hospital, are to be offered at the Hartlepool site.

Similarly, the trust plans to provide painkilling spinal injections at Hartlepool. At the moment they are only available at Stockton.

The trust has also taken on a new specialist hand surgeon who will carry out his surgery at the Hartlepool hospital.

Diagnostic endoscopy services will also be provided there for the first time, under the proposals.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: "We are planning to have more of our doctors and nurses spending more time at the University Hospital of Hartlepool."

The North Tees and Hartlepool trust is still hoping to get the go-ahead for plans to replace both ageing hospitals with a new hospital at Wynyard but funding is still an unresolved issue.

Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher, chairman of Hartlepool Borough Council's health scrutiny forum, welcomed the changes and accepted that it was now unlikely that A and E would return to Hartlepool.

But he said he was pleased that the trust had accepted the forum's request that they should carry out a full audit of where patients are being seen and come back in about six months with the figures.

"We want to see where people are going and which services they are using before we make any judgement about which services are working, " he said.

"We need to know how many people are turning up at North Tees A and E from Hartlepool, how many are turning up at the One Life Centre in Hartlepool town centre and how many people are being referred to Hartlepool hospital's emergency assessment unit."