Changes to bus routes to a North East hospital abandoning staff late at night have sparked an angry debate over services.

Staff from The University Hospital of North Tees have reportedly been walking home at night rather than wait over an hour for a bus.

Changes were made to the 36, 37 and 38 Stagecoach services in November.

The 37 was the best link between North Tees Hospital and Norton with the old half hourly service being replaced by an hourly one.

Alex Cunningham, Labour MP for Stockton North, has raised concerns that there has not been enough of a consultation process.

Stagecoach has responded to Mr Cunningham's concerns by stating that it has asked for a meeting with North Tees NHS Trust.

Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, has reinforced his commitment to ensuring the best level of service to the area.

Mr Cunningham said: "Buses serving Teesside Park are a welcome, if long overdue, addition and I know lots of people are happy with these new stops, but it is absurd to bring these in at the expense of services to North Tees Hospital.

"That there appears to have been no consultation with hospital management about timetabling is disappointing and it is incredibly worrying to hear that staff are being left in a position to either walk home in the dead of night or wait potentially for over an hour for the next bus.

"For too long our communities have had to put up with sub-par bus services and gimmicky, quick-fixes in the guise of Tees Flex. It’s time the Tees Valley Mayor used the powers available to him through the 2017 Bus Act to take control of local buses and run them for local people, not private profit."

A Stagecoach spokesperson said: "This feedback was passed to Stagecoach by Mr Cunningham MP’s office last month, and we have since offered to meet with the team at North Tees NHS Trust to discuss further.  

"With regards to routes 36, 37, 38, the amendment to serve Teesside Park was in direct response to changing customer demands: The new route means a wide range of communities can now directly access employment, leisure and retail at Teesside Park, journeys which were not previously possible. We are already seeing large numbers of people using the revised services.  

"We are somewhat confused by the feedback regarding evening buses to University Hospital of North Tees, as these have remained unchanged. The only frequency change was to Monday to Saturday daytime buses on route 37, which were revised to hourly, reflecting customer demand.  

"University Hospital of North Tees continues to be served by up to 10 Stagecoach buses per hour, on routes 37, 57, 58 and 59.  

"Prior to these changes being introduced, Stagecoach engaged in the required notification processes, which include direct statutory consultation with Tees Valley Combined Authority."  

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen responded by saying: “We have worked incredibly closely cross party with the local authorities and bus operators to protect vital bus routes across Teesside, Darlington, and Hartlepool.

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“As with most things, Alex seems to misunderstand bus franchising. All it would do is take away all cost and risk to bus companies and put all the cost and risk onto the taxpayer - whilst protecting private profits.

“He also seems unable to understand bus timetables, as evening services remain unaffected to North Tees.

“We remain committed to working in partnership with bus operators to ensure the best level of service.”