The MP for Richmond, William Hague, has addressed those gathered in Northallerton to march against the proposed closure of the paediatric department at the Friarage Hospital in the town.
As part of his opening speech the Foreign Secretary said that people who live in rural areas 'deserve as good health care as those living in urban areas'.
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A decision will be announced on the fate of three GP surgeries in Hartlepool later.
The UK only managed to rank 20th on the World Economic Forum's (WEF) index of nations - a slide from 9th position in 2006.
"Last season is fading from view in the rear-view mirror with bright skies ahead for the rest of the season."