The MP who resigned from his government health brief amid a reconfiguration row has spoken of his 'disappointment' over the latest ruling.

Government adviser Professor Sir Ara Darzi had proposed that maternity services at the dual-sited North Tees and Hartlepool trust should be centralised at Hartlepool Hospital, which would have left University Hospital of North Tees in nearby Stockton with a midwife-led unit.

But the scheme was rejected by Stockton councillors and referred to the independent reconfiguration panel.

The decision prompted Hartlepool MP Iain Wright to quit his post as parliamentary private secretary to health minister Rosie Winterton last September.

Now the IRP has put forward a new solution: to replace both hospitals with a new Teeside site.

Mr Wright told HSJ: 'I worked very hard and presented a petition with 32,000 signatures to the floor of the Commons, supporting Professor Darzi's proposals.

'What I take exception to is the IRP's emphasis on a single site hospital when we're trying to wean ourselves off a reliance on hospitals. I would have expected the emphasis to be on community care.'

He insisted that 'the jury's still out' and vowed to continue the fight to keep Hartlepool Hospital open.

The proposed new hospital will be built within four to seven years, close to Hartlepool, Stockton, Easington and Sedgefield.