A BUS service linking people in Teesdale communities with Darlington Memorial Hospital will be launched by Health Secretary and Darlington MP Alan Milburn this week.

The 70 service will make its first journey from Galgate, in Barnard Castle, at 8.45am on Friday, stopping at Whorlton, Little Newsham, South Cleatlam, Staindrop, Ingleton and Summerhouse.

Some of the villages do not have a regular service to Darlington.

Passenger assistants will be used on the service, which will be run by Go North-East and funded from the Rural Bus Challenge awarded to Durham County Council by the Department of Transport.

The assistants are fully trained and will help people with mobility difficulties travel to hospital for appointments or visits.

Councillor Ken Manton, leader of Durham County Council, said: "Working closely with out patient staff at the hospital, assistants will make sure that people get the best out of the service."

Copies of the timetable are available from the council's public transport group on 0191-383 3337 or Barnard Castle Tourist Information Centre. Details about the service are also available by contacting Traveline North-East on 0870-608 2608, daily between 7am and 8pm.