A North-East hospital has started heavyweight investment in equipment.

A six-tonne magnet was lifted into place by crane during a delicate operation at the private Newcastle Nuffield Hospital.

The powerful magnet is for an advanced MRI scanner being installed at the hospital by Alliance Medical Limited at a cost of £1m.

The GE Signa Excite HD 1.5T MR - regarded as one of the most advanced, high-performance static MRI scanners - will be operational early next month.

It replaces a scanner that has been used to diagnose approximately 70,000 patients over the past ten years.

Michelle Hordon, deputy manager of the hospital's MRI Unit, said: "The new scanner is great news for both radiography staff and patients. It will provide very high resolution images to ensure definitive diagnoses for patients suffering from mechanical back pain, musculo-skeletal injuries and many neurological disorders.

"It features the latest innovations in MR software and faster scanning capability, which means we can perform a functional cardiac exam in just two minutes, producing high definition cardiac images in a single breath-hold, and therefore minimise the patient's discomfort."

At the same time, Cleveland Nuffield Hospital - the Newcastle Nuffield's sister hospital on Teesside - is spending £250,000 on a new x-ray machine.

Debbie Dobbs, Nuffield's lead market manager in the North-East, said: "This major investment in diagnostic equipment puts the Nuffield hospitals in a strong position to support the Government's drive to achieve a maximum 18-week waiting time from GP referral to commencement of treatment, including for the first time the diagnostic process, by December 2008."