A MULTI-MILLION pound project to redevelop a town's hospital has been approved.

Parts of the Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, will be given an £18m facelift.

The plans include a new children's unit, modern pharmacy and improved parking.

The scheme will benefit patients, visitors and health services staff and was approved by the North and East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire Strategic Health Authority.

Paediatrician Dr Jon James said: "It is great news for the Friarage that the development is finally going ahead.

"The new purpose-built facilities will allow us to provide the highest standard of care and comfort for our patients in a modern and welcoming environment."

A scheme has already been drawn up by architects and planners to create a high quality, patient centred environment at the hospital, with accessible accommodation and modern facilities for patients and staff.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust's chief executive, Bill Murray, said the trust had been pushing for the redevelopment project since it took over responsibility for the Friarage in April last year.

"Within 18 months of the merger we have secured a major capital investment to renew the hospital," he said.

The three-year project, which is likely to start in the autumn, will result in a new women's health unit, a refurbished maternity unit, new kitchens and staff dining areas. The main entrance to the hospital will also be upgraded.

The Strategic Health Authority has also allocated £350,000 from the trust's capital programme to increase endoscopy rooms in the day unit.

The Friends of the Friarage Hospital have launched a £150,000 fundraising drive to provide equipment.

As the main commissioners of health services, Hambleton and Richmondshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) is also supporting the redevelopment scheme.

Chief executive Chris Long said: "This development, which will aid in securing the future of the Friarage, is excellent news for local people.

"The PCT has worked closely with the trust in the development of this scheme, and we have committed to pay the ongoing annual cost of over £1m per year to ensure that it goes ahead.