A DETAILED timetable of how acute medical services will be withdrawn from a North-East hospital over the next few weeks has been released by NHS officials.

Earlier this year it was decided that because of staffing concerns, acute medical services would be centralised at hospitals in Darlington and Durham City at the expense of Bishop Auckland General Hospital.

Now officials at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust have released information of how and when the main changes will take place.

The aim is to complete the transfer by October 1 and officials have drawn up a plan that will see gradual changes to services provided at Bishop Auckland.

● The first change occurred on Monday when a new rapid access medical assessment centre opened at Bishop Auckland for assessing patients referred by a GP;

● On Friday, September 18, ambulances on emergency calls will stop taking patients to Bishop Auckland, although patients with chest pain and stroke will continue to be admitted to the coronary care unit and stroke unit for a few more days;

● From Wednesday, September 23, only patients referred by GPs with an estimated maximum stay of 48 hours will be admitted;

● On Friday, September 25, all stroke admissions to Bishop Auckland wil transfer to the University Hospital of North Durham until the Darlington Memorial acute stroke unit opens on October 2.

● On Monday, September 28, the medical admissions unit at Bishop Auckland will close and all chest pain admissions will transfer to Darlington or Durham City.

● On Wednesday, September 30, the last acute medical shift will end in accident and emergency at midnight – with the department becoming a 24 hour GP-led urgent care centre from October 1.

● On that day, any acute medical patients remaining at Bishop Auckland hospital will transfer to either Darlington or Durham City.

● On October 2, an acute stroke unit will open at Darlington Memorial Hospital.Improved transport links will include a minibus service in Weardale, a new volunteer driver service and shared taxi service in Teesdale and a minibus service operating between the three sites.

Sam Zair, a Bishop Auckland councillor, who was one of the leaders of the unsuccessful Save Our Hospital campaign group, said: “This is a very sad day for Wear Valley, Weardale and Teesdale. I believe lives will be lost because of these changes.”