OFFICIALS will be able to check the health of Darlington's population at the touch of a button, thanks to a computer system being pioneered in the town.

Darlington Primary Care Trust has agreed to become a pilot site for a performance management scheme.

Provided by Rochester Information Systems, it will be used to monitor every aspect of the trust's work, setting them against local and national targets, to keep tabs on its performance.

The Internet-based system will reveal a host of information to health officials allowing them to judge how the trust is performing in any area of care it provides.

It means that anything from the percentage of the female population screened for breast cancer to changes in mortality and conception rates can be monitored.

The computer system automatically flags up where results are lagging behind targets by attaching a "traffic light"marker - green representing results on target and red for those falling significantly behind.

Trust performance manager Michael Wilson said: "We will be among the first to use this system within the NHS, which is going to make us a beacon site for the rest of the country."