TWO consultations on future services at a County Durham hospital have been put on hold until after the general election.

The NHS in County Durham was due to ask people for their views on turning Ward six at Bishop Auckland Hospital into an in-patient rehabilitation ward and moving stroke rehabilitation services to Durham.

But because of Wednesday’s announcement that there will be an election on December 12, both consultations will now be paused until January.

Dr Stewart Findlay, of NHS Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We have taken the decision to delay both consultations due to the potential clash with the run-up to the UK general election.

“Continuing with our public events may have risked breaching ‘purdah’ rules which prevent all public sector organisations engaging in any activity which could be deemed politically controversial.

“While we are extremely disappointed to be delaying consultation on both proposals, it is important that we do everything possible to avoid any activity that could call NHS political impartiality into question and ensure that any public resources are not used for political purposes.”

The CCG has released proposals to redesign Ward six, which delivers nurse-led “step down care” for patients who are medically well but unable to return home immediately.

Instead, it would provide an in-patient rehabilitation service, aimed at helping people get out of hospital sooner, and would have 16 beds instead of 24.

Last year a campaign was launched to save the ward after it emerged there had been discussions about closing it.

The other consultation is about stroke rehabilitation services in Bishop Auckland.

It is part of plans to consolidate all stroke services from community hospitals in the area into the University Hospital of North Durham, alongside the current hyper-acute stroke unit, to help more people receive more care at home.

It is hoped the shake-up could reduce the time patients spend in hospital.

Consultation events due to take place in November have been cancelled. Future events will be publicised in advance by the CCG.