STAFF, patients and visitors at a rural community hospital were transported back in time to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the NHS yesterday.

Those at the Richardson Hospital, in Barnard Castle, had hung out the bunting to welcome visitors to their special open morning.

Displays of photographs showing the history of the hospital, old uniforms and equipment were available as well as live music and homemade scones.

The mayor of Barnard Castle, Councillor Sandra Moorhouse, also attended while patients were given a three-course lunch and dinner served on specially-designed place mats for the occasion.

Visitors were also able to find out about the services on offer at the hospital, such as physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

The Friends then officially unveiled a unique piece of art which had been made following a generous £25,000 legacy donation.

The artwork - a steel and copper tree - now stands proudly in the hospital grounds and features three starling birds in a nest as well as 384 hand-flamed painted leaves.

Iris Hillery, Friends' secretary said everyone had a fantastic time with more than 50 people attending.

Mrs Hillery said: "It went really well and the staff had pulled out all the stops from the displays and decorating the patients' dining room for their special menus.

"A lot of effort had gone in to make it special."

She added: "We had quite a few patients and former staff come down so it was a really lovely morning."