HEALTH bosses have had to bail out one of the region's largest hospital trusts, which was facing debts of £2m.

South Tees Hospitals Trust, which is being expanded, had to ask Tees and County Durham health authorities for financial support to balance its books.

It means the Middlesbrough trust, which includes the James Cook University Hospital, will have to adjust its spending plans for the next financial year to make up the deficit.

South Tees was the only hospital trust in the region contacted by The Northern Echo which expected to go into the red.

Trusts in North Durham, South Durham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Northallerton, Gateshead, North Tees and Hartlepool said they expected to balance their books by tomorrow.

The Department of Health has insisted hospital trusts stay out of debt this year because of structural changes which will take effect from Monday, when new Primary Care Trusts take over the financial reins from health authorities.

They will also run community health services which used to be run by hospitals.

Hospitals were also expected to meet tough targets on reducing waiting times for patients waiting to see a consultant (out-patients) and patients waiting for admission for treatment (in-patients) by tomorrow.

Again, most hospitals forecast that they would meet national targets, although North Durham, which includes the privately-financed University Hospital of North Durham, missed its in-patient target.

Other changes in the region involve the creation of three large strategic health authorities between Berwick and Scarborough.

The Northern and Yorkshire NHS regional office, in Durham, will be replaced by the Directorate of Health and Social Care (North) in Leeds.

Another change is the disappearance of the Northallerton hospital trust, which was criticised for its handing of the Richard Neale case.

From Monday, the Friarage Hospital, where the disgraced gynaecologist worked between 1985 and 1995, will be run by management at the South Tees trust, in Middlesbrough.

Northallerton Health Services Trust has now been dissolved with community and mental health services moving to Hambleton and Richmondshire Primary Care Trust.

A spokesman for the outgoing Northern and Yorkshire regional office of the NHS said: "There has been a huge effort from medical, nursing and managerial staff, and waiting times have come down significantly in the last few months.