A PLANNED overhaul of stroke care in County Durham could hit patients in Teesdale and Weardale hardest, NHS bosses have been warned.

Proposed changes could see rehab services currently based at Bishop Auckland Hospital (BAH) moved to the University Hospital of North Durham (UHND), which is also the first port of call for stroke victims.

But although health chiefs claim this will help patients get home faster, concerns have been raised for the impact on their families visiting them, especially those forced to travel the furthest.

“BAH fills the need for people in the southern part of the county, UHND fills the need for people in the north of the county,” said Barnard Castle councillor Ted Henderson.

“UHND would be an ideal place for a one stop shop, but it doesn’t have the size, it’s too small to take on the whole lot and the parking is atrocious.

“I’ve been going to the maternity unit to see my daughter and I’ve been parking at Durham County Hall because there was no way I could get parked over there.

“People who live in Harwood or Forest-in-Teesdale have to drive to UHND, so there’s distance and cost, but we can go to BAH and get parked with no problems.

“People who have had a stroke need their families around them and we cannot expect people to drive an hour-and-a-half there and an hour-and-a-half back.”

Coun Henderson was speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Joint Health Scrutiny Panel for County Durham and Darlington, which has been set up to look at the potential impact of proposed changes to stroke services at BAH.

Lisa Cole, deputy associate director of operations at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT), which runs the hospital, raised the prospect of relaxing visiting hours in an attempt to reduce congestion at peak times.

She added: “Stroke rehab is a specialist service and it’s a single site for the whole of County Durham and Darlington, so it will always be inconvenient for some part of the patch, that’s why this proposal is aiming to make community services more robust.”