THE gloomy picture of bed reductions and nursing cuts painted by regional nursing leaders last week is not borne out by what is happening elsewhere in the North-East NHS - an independent analysis by The Northern Echo has revealed.

Last week the Royal College of Nursing published a mass of statistics which showed that the number of acute and general hospital beds in the region had dropped by 450 between 2010 and now.

The RCN - which sent hundreds of Freedom of Information requests to the regions hospital trusts - expressed concern that some hospital trusts were changing their nursing skill mix so that senior band six and seven nurses were being replaced with less qualified nurses.

But an independent analysis of the statistics by The Northern Echo shows that some of the largest hospital trusts in the region have not only increased the number of beds during the same period but they have also increased the number of senior nurses they employ.

The figures also show a massive increase in the number of healthcare assistants in some places.

Figures provided by the RCN show that the number of acute and general beds at the County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust had increased from 998 in 2010 to 1,073 today.

While the two largest hospitals in the Trust - the University Hospital of North Durham and Darlington Memorial Hospital - both saw a reduction in beds in this period this was more than made up for by an expansion of beds in smaller community hospitals run by the same Trust in places like Barnard Castle, Shotley Bridge and Sedgefield.

Similarly, the number of grade six nurses rose from 461 to 787 during the same period along with the number of grade seven nurses which rose from 220 to 461.

The County Durham and Darlington Trust also saw a huge increase in healthcare assistants, going up from 77 in 2010 to 247 now.

There was a similar story at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where bed numbers rose from 1,322 in 2010 to 1,450 today and grade six nurses went up from 677 to 788 in the same period. Band seven nurses also rose from 367 to 499 over the three years.

At the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust bed numbers rose from 1,712 in 2010 to 1,833 now. Grade six nurses rose from 698 to 937 and grade seven nurses went up from 539 to 635.

A spokesman for NHS England in the North-East said: "NHS England is committed to working with local clinical commissioning groups and trusts to ensure that all patients receive compassionate and competent care across the North-East and Cumbria.

Our trusts provide safe, high quality health services and are continuously looking at ways to make further improvements."