HEALTH bosses have backed plans to build a state of the art hospital in the region.

The £299m plan is to build a new 626-bed hospital which would be ready for use in 2016.

Designed to replace ageing hospitals in Hartlepool and Stockton, the new Wynyard Hospital would need to attract private funding after the Coalition Government ruled out public funding.

But officials from the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust say they are confident they can raise the money needed from the private sector.

If the project goes ahead it will provide an ultra-modern new hospital for the North Tees, Hartlepool and South-East Durham area.

Unusually, the hospital will consist entirely of single rooms.

While the project is regarded as a vital part of renewing NHS healthcare in the area, protesters in Hartlepool would prefer the existing hospital to be refurbished.

Alan Foster, chief executive of the trust, said: "The need for this hospital is not in any doubt. We have looked to make sure we can afford it by moving services onto one site, reducing duplication and getting efficiencies in the design."

The original design, which included five, rather than four floors, had 634 beds and cost £458m.