THE NHS has received a great deal of media attention recently with particular focus on the pressures facing A&E departments around the country.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on what has been happening locally and having spoken to senior hospital managers this week I am pleased to say that the Friarage A&E team has been doing a superb job in comfortably meeting the target for treating 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

While I don’t underestimate the challenges the NHS faces, there’s lots more good news about our local health services and the way they are working collaboratively to meet growing demand.

Earlier this month I visited Leyburn Medical Practice to talk to the team which was recently judged Outstanding by Care Quality Commission inspectors.

The Practice’s innovative approach was singled out for praise in the report, particularly its paramedic practitioner Pete Shaw who provides a minor injuries service in patients’ homes and at the practice premises in Leyburn and thus saves people from making the trip to hospital.

Innovation is also behind imminent improvements at the Friarage’s A&E where GPs will be used at weekends – the busiest time - to supplement the work of consultants. The GPs will deal with the less seriously ill or injured patients and help to further reduce waiting times.

Another innovation that’s already paying dividends at the Friarage is the ambulatory care unit, which I had the privilege of opening last year. The unit has reduced the need for overnight stays in hospital and enabled many more patients to receive the care they need in the familiar surroundings of home.

Some treatments have to take place in hospital of course and it was very encouraging to see confirmation this month of the plans for the £10m Sir Robert Ogden cancer centre at the Friarage. Sir Robert’s donation is incredibly generous and this project – jointly managed by Macmillan Cancer Support and the South Tees NHS Foundation Hospitals Trust – is a real vote of confidence in the long-term future of the Friarage.

Thanks to the amazing fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Friarage, led by Dr Upendra Somasundram, work has also started on preparing the hospital for the installation of an MRI scanner, an important piece of diagnostic equipment which will save patients from making journeys to Darlington and Middlesbrough. It’s more good news for our local hospital.

One aspect of local healthcare I am concerned about however is the potential threat to Darlington Memorial Hospital posed by the current review of services provided in southern County Durham and the Tees Valley and how that impacts on North Yorkshire.

One option under consideration is the downgrading of either the Memorial or North Tees Hospitals. Downgrading of the Memorial could mean the loss of A&E and consultant-led maternity services both of which would affect constituents in the Yorkshire Dales and northern Richmondshire and Hambleton.

The loss of consultant-led maternity at Darlington in particular would be worrying given the undertaking made about Darlington’s availability for expectant mothers when the Friarage’s maternity service was downgraded in 2014.

Although the formal consultation does not start until later this year, I have already started work on this issue, meeting with Ministers and the local health executives who will make the decisions. To all, I have underscored my strong objection to any changes at Darlington.

Rest assured, over the coming months I will be fighting my hardest to retain services at Darlington to keep already lengthy travel distances at a tolerable level.