HEALTH chiefs are looking at plans that could see a community hospital replaced with a smaller medical centre.

Consultation is underway over plans to review services offered at Shotley Bridge Hospital, near Consett.

The plans could see some care shifted to University Hospital North Durham, but NHS bosses also hope they will be able to keep most services at ‘a new purpose built facility in North West Durham’.

For years campaigners have feared services at the facility were being run down with view to closing the facility.

It is the first time health chiefs have confirmed they are considering the move and seven figure funding for a new facility is now in place.

The location of any new centre has not yet been decided.

Dr Ian Davidson, from North Durham Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is just the beginning of a number of conversations that we are planning to have with people in the North West Durham area, that will help us understand issues and priorities that we can then apply alongside clinical criteria and the views of our consultants, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to come up with options to deliver services that are fit for the future and meet the needs of local people.”

An ‘engagement exercise’ on the plans, is due to run until Wednesday, May 22, and findings are due to be used in a formal public consultation later this year.

Services due to be considered include: outpatients, urgent care, chemotherapy, rehabilitation beds, diagnostics including x-rays and ultrasound scans, surgery and endoscopy

The CCG’s has already said it wants outpatients, chemotherapy and diagnostic services to stay at the planned new facility.

But it would prefer endoscopy and theatre services to move to an acute hospital, such as University Hospital of North Durham.

A spokesman for Shotley Bridge Hospital Support Group, which has said the site may be used for housing, said: “The group accepts that the future of the hospital is a ‘new development’ given the high running costs of the current buildings.”

Councillor Alex Watson, who represents the area on Durham County Council, added: “It is vital that the public engage and make their voices heard and make their feelings known.”