A HOSPITAL trust has announced details of plans to spend more than £5m making improvements to accident and emergency departments in Darlington and Durham.

Bosses at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said they hope the extensions to Darlington Memorial Hospital and University Hospital of North Durham will mean that patients can be seen more quickly and receive treatment appropriate to their needs.

The trust has invested £5.6m across both hospitals because the numbers of patients attending the emergency departments has reached a level where both facilities are operating above capacity, leading to delays in treatment.

In Darlington, the A&E will be developed to provide urgent care services 24 hours a day, seven days a week alongside the emergency department.

Urgent care services are currently provided at Doctor Piper House, near Darlington town centre, but the trust hopes that by moving urgent care within the hospital they can guide people with minor injuries and illnesses away from the emergency department, freeing its services for those in a serious condition.

Plans for how the urgent care service and the reorganised emergency department would look and operate are being drawn up by the trust ahead of building work.

The funding for University Hospital of North Durham will see changes made in its emergency department to improve services ahead of winter.

A new surgical decisions unit has been opened, which has the aim of providing patients with quicker access to specialist assessment and diagnostic tests so that patients are only admitted to hospital when it is considered necessary.

The trust is also looking to make the emergency department bigger to create more space and increase capacity for patients.

A spokesman for the hospital trust said: “The trust has earmarked £5.6m to invest into the emergency departments at Darlington Memorial Hospital and University Hospital of North Durham.

“The trust’s accident and emergency services see and treat more than 120,000 patients each year, which is way beyond the capacity the departments were built for.

“This means that there are times when patients have long waits for treatment, and are waiting longer than necessary in ambulances to come into the departments care service.”