REASSURANCES that the Richardson Hospital has a positive role to play in the future of health care in Teesdale have been backed up by a £4.8m bid for funding.

The sum is part of a joint bid by the Durham Dales Primary Care Trust and has been supported by other trusts in the area. The bid - which is awaiting expected approval at the hands of County Durham and Tees Valley Health Authority, after which it will be forwarded to the Department of Health - also involves a further bid of £1.5m for the redevelopment of Willington Health Centre.

PCT development officer Michael Wilson told the D&S Times that, if successful, the money would be used to maintain and re-establish services at the Richardson.

"I have to stress that the bid is in the very early stages at the moment," he said. "I don't know what services it will provide, but nothing is ruled out. We will look at maintaining and building on the services already there.

"We are committed to having services at the Richardson, and at Willington Health Centre, and if the bid is unsuccessful there are other funding routes that we can go down."

His comments were echoed by chairman Anne Beeton, who told the latest meeting of the trust board that she had attended a meeting of the Friends of the Richardson Hospital, where she had outlined the bid to a warm response.

"I hope it helped convince them that we are not going to close down the hospital, and in fact want to further develop what is available," she said.

"We are committed to continuing services at the Richardson and, if the bid is unsuccessful, there are other funding options we can consider."

Friends' chairman Iris Hillery told the D&S Times that they had been very encouraged by what Mrs Beeton had to say.

"It confirms our belief that the Richardson Hospital forms a positive part in the provision of community services in the dale," she added.

"We are delighted by news of the bid, and by the fact that other options are open if it is not successful.

"We are very keen to work with them and to carry on raising funds to provide all the 'extras' for the comfort of patients."

The board's chief executive, Andrew Kenworthy, praised Mr Wilson for his preparation of the bid, which had been done in five days in order to meet a deadline.

* See also page 4.