A FARMER'S fears that building workers could bring foot-and-mouth disease on to his land has held up the opening of a £1m hospital.

Patients at the redeveloped Horn Hall Hospital, in Stanhope, County Durham, should have been in the gleaming new community hospital by Christmas.

But, due to concerns about the possible contamination of farming land by electrical engineers, patients will have to stay in the original Victorian hospital until the New Year.

Kevin Oxley, head of estates at South Durham Health Care NHS Trust, said problems over access had delayed the move to the new hospital by a couple of weeks.

"We needed to put in an upgraded power supply, but the engineers needed access to a sub-station which was on the farmer's land," said Mr Oxley.

The farmer was "understandably very protective" about strangers going on to the land.

"He felt that until the government lifted the restrictions he would prefer us not to go on to his land," said Mr Oxley.

It was thought that the problem was going to be solved a few weeks ago when restrictions were lifted across large areas of the region, but lingering fears meant that restrictions in the Wear Valley were reimposed within six hours.

Restrictions were finally lifted two weeks ago, allowing the engineers to provide the improved electricity supply.

"Because we have patients being cared for in an existing hospital we thought it was best to have the last Christmas at Horn Hall," said Mr Oxley. It is hoped patients and staff will transfer in the week beginning January 14.