A STATE-OF-THE-ART MRI scanner has been installed in a hospital thanks in part to the generosity of the local community.

The machine at Darlington Memorial Hospital follows the installation of an identical scanner at Bishop Auckland Hospital in December 2017.

Funding for the new scanner was raised by a number of community projects and donations from former patients and small businesses. One group of NHS staff and members of the public even took part in a skydive, raising more than £4,000 for the machine.

One of the first patients to test out the new scanner was Darlington man Kevin Hogg, who was referred to the hospital after suffering neck problems.

He was a guest of honour at the launch of the MRI scanner on Thursday and cut the ribbon to officially declare it open.

Previously, the 60-year-old underwent an MRI scan in a Darlington mobile unit. He said the new machine was like flying first class after flying economy.

“The first experience, although I was very grateful for the facilities, was nothing like the information and the photographs you see beforehand," said Mr Hogg. "The space was very compromised and there wasn’t much privacy.

“When I came to Darlington Memorial Hospital for the scan, the MRI machine in itself was a different animal.”

Dr Elizabeth Loney, consultant radiologist and care group director for clinical specialist services, said: “It’s a dream come true for me.

"After coming to the hospital three and a half years ago I thought of how much better we could do if we had the sort of scanners we have today.

“I’m delighted that our patients are now benefitting from this innovative technology.

"Modern scanners play an important part in helping out consultants diagnose and determine treatment plans for what can be life threatening or life limiting conditions, including many types of cancer and heart disease.

"Previously patients may have had to undergo exploratory and sometimes invasive surgery to support the diagnostic process.”

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust chairman Paul Keane also attended the launch, alongside Darlington MP, Jenny Chapman, who said: “It was great to be at the opening of our new MRI department at Darlington Memorial Hospital.

“I was delighted to hear what a huge difference having this facility here in Darlington will make to patients.”