FAMILIES in Teesdale and Weardale say they have felt cut off from their GP after out-of-hours services closed in the area.

An out-of-hours service which operated after 3pm at Stanhope and Barnard Castle closed on October 1, leaving Bishop Auckland as the only location for the service for people in the Durham Dales.

When the streamlining of services was announced, 2,518 people signed a petition objecting to the move.

This has meant a lengthy drive for many of the residents who, if calling for medical assistance, usually feel unwell or unfit to make such a drive.

Bishop Auckland is 14 miles away from Stanhope with just over half an hour drive time.

Mother Fiona Crosby said her family had to travel from Stanhope to Bishop Auckland when her young son became ill with a gastric bug as well as chicken pox.

She also struggled with the journey due to her own asthma.

She said: “We’ve lived in the dale for three years now, we have come from Durham where all the services are on your doorstep.”

She took her son to the out-of-hours service in Bishop Auckland, however the car journey proved difficult.

She had to stop the car several times to due her son’s illness, which was embarrassing for both.

“The hospital was very busy but we were seen quickly due to the severity of situation.”

The family finally ended up in A&E at the University Hospital of North Durham.

“These small closures have a knock on effect on the bigger hospitals, I feel like I need to watch my health more as a result,” she said.

Another case is that of Stanhope resident Lisa-Marie Watson who wanted a quick check-up rather than a trip to A&E for 16-year-old son who hurt his toe playing football.

Ms Watson made an appointment with the doctor in Stanhope for 3pm however they said there were no doctors available at that time and that they no longer do afternoon appointments.

“It felt like I was playing piggy in the middle, the system is failing.”

Ms Watson moved to Weardale from Teesdale and lives very close to the doctor’s surgery in Stanhope which was a key reason for the move.

She said: “The hub in Stanhope used to work very well for people, we’ve lived here for four years and services are decreasing.”

Sarah Burns, director of commissioning at Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “During our consultation, the CCG were made aware of concerns some patients had regarding transport, we have acted by removing the requirement to have a clinical need to receive NHS funded transport to and from hub appointments.”