MORE than 1,000 people have signed a petition calling for funding to be allocated for a new accident and emergency department at a hospital in County Durham.

The University Hospital of North Durham (UHND) was given planning permission to build the £23m emergency department in 2017 but County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is still awaiting funds to start the project.

The viability of the scheme was thrown into doubt earlier this month when the Department of Health announced a spending review.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced 20 projects which were to get a share of £850million to improve facilities, of which the department at UHND was not one.

The Northern Echo:

Labour councillor Maura McKeon, who represents the Coxhoe ward at Durham County Council, started the petition, which calls for funding to be allocated.

She said: "When I read about the A&E and how it didn't have the money, which was going to different hospitals in the country, with nothing for Durham, I became very, very angry.

"We've been waiting for this for years. The foundation trust would not have applied for the money if they didn't feel it was necessary.

"I felt people in Durham needed to know they had been promised something and it hadn't been delivered."

Earlier this month, NHS England and NHS Improvement have instructed trusts across the country to reduce their 2019/20 spending plans after the amount of money requested to fund capital projects nationally exceeded the Department of Health and Social Care’s budget.

This includes funding for new buildings, new equipment and IT systems and enhancements to existing facilities.

Cllr McKeon added: "Our A&Es bear the brunt of a lot of other crisis. They deal with the homelessness crisis and the rises in substance abuse. As they grow, so does the pressure on our A&E."

When the foundation trust applied for planning permission for the emergency department it said it was operating at twice its capacity and the new department would future proof it for a decade.

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

If more than 10,000 people sign the petition, available at, the government is obliged to respond while if more than 100,000 sign it, it could be debated by parliament.