A SINGLE mother claims NHS confusion prevented her daughter from receiving medical treatment for more than an hour.

Gillian Raine of Dipton, near Stanley, said her 11-year-old daughter, Pamela, was suffering from a severe asthmatic attack, which needed urgent medical attention.

Ms Raine, who campaigned unsuccessfully against the closure of the Accident and Emergency Unit at Shotley Bridge Hospital more than two years ago, said: "I had to call my local GP to obtain an emergency number from the answering machine. I rang that and then had to call NHS Direct. They kept me holding on for five minutes while a nurse became free.

"Eventually a nurse told me what I already knew, that my daughter needed a dose of steroids. They told me go to Dryburn but I didn't have a car. Then they told me to get to the out-of-hours GP service at Shotley Bridge. That cost me £4.50 taxi fare which I could ill afford and took an age to arrive.

"It goes to show how difficult it is for people like me to get decent NHS care. I remember when they closed down the accident and emergency depart- ment we were told that transport needs for situations like this would be taken care of. That has not happened."

She added that the situation could become even worse with plans to close the minor casualty unit at Shotley Bridge hospital by two and a half hours and cut back on an ambulance at Consett.

Chief executive of North Durham NHS Trust Bill Worth said he hoped Ms Raine would contact the trust but was reluctant to comment without first hand knowledge of the details.

He said: "This seems to be mainly a transport issue and I am not able to comment too much about that. All I can say is I have every confidence in our services in Shotley Bridge and would urge any one with any problems to contact us."

North-East ambulance service director of operations Steve Whinfield said the decision about Consett ambulance would made in August. He said: "I fully sympathise with this woman's predicament."