RESIDENTS in Teesdale and Weardale have started a petition in reaction to the decision to close out of hours GP services in Stanhope and Barnard Castle.

A consultation found the services are over staffed and underused, however Catherine Robson of Weardale, has started a petition.

She said: “We believe that the consultation was flawed from the outset, based as it was on statistics regarding usage which showed that the services in Barnard Castle and Stanhope were underused and therefore not viable. It’s become clear from discussion with local residents on social media and in person that appointments were not offered by 111 which was the only way to access the service. The service was not advertised and residents did not know it existed, therefore the data was unreliable.”

The proposed changes mean that there will no longer be any out of hours provision in the west of the region,with the nearest centre for residents of Weardale and Teesdale now Bishop Auckland. This is a 45 minute drive from the furthest village in Weardale, where public transport is very limited or non-existent.

Residents of Weardale, pointed out that the consultation showed that 60 per cent of respondents were against the proposed changes.

The petition states: "While we understand the consultation is not a vote, this outcome shows a strength of feeling against the changes which has been ignored. Despite the issue of poor advertising and communication being highlighted in many of the responses, it is not clear how or if these issues were taken into consideration when making the decision."

This petition comes at a time of change in the CCG as it announced the merger of the existing North Durham CCG and Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG. The move could cut costs by about a fifth.

Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, said: “The loss of the out of hours service is very concerning. Last month in Barnard Castle I was speaking to residents and campaigners about the closure, and our on-street petition gathered 683 signatures in just five hours. I have raised multiple concerns with the Adults Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and I’m currently in correspondence with the CCG to ensure that the proposed taxi transportation scheme does not disadvantage patients in rural and remote areas. We desperately need more investment in our NHS to restore these vital services.”

The goal of the petition is to get the CCG to reopen the consultation, "with a view to ascertaining a more accurate picture of who would use an out of hours service in Barnard Castle or Stanhope if it was available to them". Last night the petition has 380 signatures.