HEALTH chiefs are still trying to secure about £23m needed to build an emergency care centre at a County Durham hospital.

The County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was granted planning permission for the new emergency centre, which would double capacity at the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND), in January 2017, after first announcing the plans in 2015.

A business case for the project has been approved but funding, which is hoped will come from the NHS’s improvement fund, is yet to be secured.

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust remains committed to plans to build a new emergency care centre at University Hospital of North Durham.

“The full business case has been approved by the trust’s board and we continue to work through the necessary processes to identify potential funding options.”

The emergency centre will replace the current accident and emergency department, which is under pressure due to increasing admissions.

The Northern Echo:

An artist's impression of the new emergency department at UHND, which was granted planning permission in January 2017

When it was built in 2001, it was meant to be able to cope with 30,000 admissions a year.

But it has been receiving more than double that for a number of years. Between February 2016 and January 2017, there were 70,151 emergency department attendances, equating to about 192 patients a day.

The application which was approved in 2017 included plans to future proof the department for a decade, with scope to increase its capacity by three per cent.

As well as being bigger, the new building, which will include urgent care facilities, will be designed to improve patient flow through the hospital, separate patients with minor injuries from those with more serious ones, and have a bigger paediatric department with its own entrance.

It will be built opposite the current building.

The trust has wanted to build the new A&E since 2015, when the trust’s medical director Professor Chris Gray said it “couldn’t wait” any longer for a new department.

At that time, it was hoped the scheme would be complete by 2017. When planning permission was given, the trust said it hoped the department would open in 2019.