ALMOST a quarter of Darlington's population has now used the town's £2m walk-in medical centre.

More than 22,000 people have been through the doors of Dr Piper House for treatment since it opened eight months ago on the ground floor of Darlington Primary Care Trust's King Street headquarters.

"It is quite staggering how many people have found their way to the centre," head of primary care Lorraine Tostevin told members of the trust's board.

"About 94 per cent of visitors were from the Darlington area, with the rest coming from other parts of the UK and abroad."

Patients aged 16 to 25 accounted for the bulk of visitors, who were suffering from a variety of minor injuries and ailments.

"The trust is encouraging patients to attend the walk-in centre instead of accident and emergency for non-emergency conditions," Mrs Tostevin said.

"Patient feedback has been excellent. It was a big investment for the PCT and it is important that we look and see how it is improving patient care."

The University of Teesside had been asked to assess the centre, including the impact it is having on GP surgeries and the hospital's accident and emergency department.

"The feedback we have received from patients has been universally positive in terms of both access and the care they have received," said the trust's medical director, Hilton Dixon.

Assistant director of health improvement Paul Davison said the centre was proving to be very popular with young people. "A lot of young people will not go to their GP and like the anonymity of the walk-in centre," he said.