A group of experts has questioned the case for a proposed new hospital between Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees.

The National Clinical Advisory Team, a national expert group which advises the NHS and Department of Health on service change, was asked by commissioners to review plans for acute services in the North Tees area.

It recommended acute services should be moved from the University Hospital of Hartlepool to Stockton’s University Hospital of North Tees.

North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust had proposed to centralise intensive care services because of concerns they were not sustainable.

NCAT agreed and said the intensive care unit was “inadequate, poorly staffed and does not meet the standards required for a modern intensive care unit”.

It also said that if the ICU was moved, other acute medical services should also be transferred from the hospital.

It said: “There is a pressing need to do something [about] acute services presently, no matter what the plans are for the future.”

Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees CCG will begin a 12 week consultation on proposals to centralise acute services at Stockton later this month. It says 120 extra acute medical beds will be provided at Stockton, and staff from medical and surgery divisions, and some diagnostic areas, will transfer. Hartlepool will become a centre for low risk elective surgery.

North Tees and Hartlepool has supported plans to centralise services. However, it has proposed it as a temporary move until a proposed new hospital is built at nearby Wynyard. Under its plans, the hospital would be expected to open in 2017.

The trust is currently seeking commercial funding for the building, after government support was withdrawn in 2010.

However, NCAT’s report, published this week, also questions whether the proposed new hospital would have a big enough catchment area to be justified.

The report highlighted the relatively high number of small district general hospitals in the North East and the trend towards centralised services operating 24 hours a day, all week, and questioned the rationale for the new hospital.

It suggested the question of the catchment population should be addressed before any building goes ahead.

It said. “If for instance the geographic site means that more patients from Hartlepool, through choice, are drifting down to the James Cook University Hospital [in Middlesbrough] that could reduce the patient catchment area to about 300,000, which would lead to a potential fall in income to fund the complex acute hospital care we would envisage.”

The NCAT recommended the trust and CCG consider the need for further external clinical review of plans for the new hospital.

A spokesman for the trust said: “As far as the commissioners and providers are concerned there is no question of the need for the new hospital.”