A popular Hartlepool entertainer had to end his days away from his beloved home town because there were no nursing beds available.
Well-known country music singer Johnny Larkin had to be cared for in a nursing home 25 miles in Shildon where he died in April aged 91.
His close friend of 10 years Sylvia Bowron has spoken of the difficulties faced by families trying to find nursing care in Hartlepool.
She said: “Johnny had lived in Hartlepool all his life, he had given a lot to the town and raised thousands and thousands of pounds.
“But when it came to needing care himself it wasn’t available.
“For somebody to end their life miles away from their own town, a town that he loved and was proud of is terrible.”
Johnny been admitted to the University of North Tees Hospital, in Stockton, on April 1 after suffering a number of falls.
He also had advanced prostate cancer and failing kidneys.
Sylvia added: “Before the Easter weekend the hospital said he needed to be fast tracked to somewhere where he could die in peace and dignity.
“I was ringing homes everywhere. There wasn’t a nursing bed anywhere.”
Johnny’s son John found a home in Hartlepool that would have accepted him but unfortunately it was not due to open until the following month.
While the care Johnny received at the Shildon home was excellent, Sylvia said he wanted to come home to Hartlepool.
“He was absolutely, devastated,” she said. “We didn’t want to take him to Shildon, to take him out of his home town because this is where he belonged. His friends and family are here.”
Sylvia said she knows of other people who are being cared for out of town adding: “It is going to become a much more regular occurrence because people are living longer.”
Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group, responsible for nursing care, said: “The CCG recognises that there are market capacity issues for nursing beds in Hartlepool.
“To assist in addressing this we have a long standing programme of joint working with Hartlepool Borough Council and other partners to address this. “The programme includes working with Nursing Homes and aims to ensure people can be cared for outside of a hospital setting to reduce the need for nursing or residential care.”