HEATH chiefs are today beginning to consult patients in Stanley about how to provide services to care for them in the future.

Derwentside Primary Care Trust (PCT) is asking residents for views on proposals to improve and develop medical facilities.

The trust proposes to build a centre to incorporate existing services at Stanley Health Centre with those at South Moor Hospital.

The new building, in the town centre, will provide GP services, nursing services, therapies, family planning, dental services, hospital outpatient services, including consultant clinics, and X-ray facilities.

It will offer new services managed by the trust and provided by practitioners with an interest in specialist areas, such as diabetes clinics, minor surgery, and musculo-skeletal services, as well as occupational and physiotherapy, speech and language therapy for children and their families.

Health chiefs say they have no plans to close South Moor Hospital. However, opponents of the plan fear it is only a matter of time.

Primary care services will continue at Tanfield View Surgery, Louisa Surgery and Craghead Medical Centre.

Trust chief executive Wynn Griffiths said: "With this vision, we want to contribute to the regeneration programme for Stanley town centre. We want to build new premises and plan to invest in the order of £17m in modern facilities to do this.

"We aim to listen to your views to ensure that we provide the right services, in the right place and the right time, in modern facilities that represent value for money."

Two public meetings will be held at Stanley's Lamplight Arts Centre on May 23, from 10am to noon, and on May 26, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.

The consultation period will end on July 4.

For a copy of the consultation document, call Verna Fee on (01207) 594 459 or go to www.derwentside-pct.nhs.uk