A HALF-WAY house for elderly patients coming out of hospital has opened at Sacriston.

The Durham and Chester-le-Street Primary Care Trust (PCT) is renting two flats in Graham Court sheltered housing complex for people who are not ready to return home.

As well as releasing hospital beds, the facility gives patients the chance to live semi- independently for six weeks with the care they need.

The project, which is costing £30,000 for the first six months, also involves Chester-le-Street District Council, Durham County Council and County Durham and Darlington Acute Hospitals Trust.

The first to benefit from the scheme is John "Jack'' Pearson, 77, of West Rainton, who has spent almost six weeks in one of the flats following an operation.

Denise Elliott, a specialist nurse for older people with the PCT, said: "The flat gives older people another option to enable hospital discharge and will help to reinforce independent living in a home environment.

"The clients will undergo an individualised rehabilitative programme including, occupational therapy, home care visits and housing advice, during their stay in the flat. It is hoped the facility will improve clients' confidence and ease the transition back to home.''