THE unofficial mascot of Hexham Hospital has gone viral.

Eleven-year-old cat Yang Bell has been a mainstay at the town's hospital for around five years, lifting morale for local people and staff.

But it was a patient's, now viral, text to her partner after recovering from surgery which would see the ginger feline reach new audiences.

"He's now going far and wide", said proud owner Glynis Bell. "Yang's just Yang. I don't own him, the whole world owns him."

Yang travels from his nearby home to the hospital most days and spends time with patients, visitors and workers.

But despite greeting hundreds everyday, Yang was unfazed in the presence of VIP Prime Minster Boris Johnson earlier this year.

Glynis said: "When Boris was there, he stood up, looked at him, turned round and went back to sleep!

"He's been doing all his usual duties, saying 'hello' to everybody but he's now got his own little uniform with his name and NHS on."

Glynis explained that Yang, who has his own Facebook page with hundreds of loyal followers, is a very intuitive animal and has been on hand to support people, particularly during the Covid pandemic.

"There's been times where I've been sitting watching him and he hasn't noticed and people have come and he can see they're upset and he just bee-lines them, sits beside them, puts a paw on their leg and looks in their face as if saying 'do you want to talk, I'm listening'", said Glynis.

"Ironically, a couple of years ago, he'd been headbutting me in the chest and I took no notice of him. I collapsed less than two-three days later, I had a massive heart problem. I knew nothing about it, but he did. He'd been trying to tell me for weeks."

For Christmas, the much-loved animal, who is also a frequent visitor to the Waitrose canteen, was left blankets, treats and toys from locals keen to show their appreciation.

"He's been a total moral support", said Glynis, who says she often receives messages from people longing to meet Yang, who has a sister Ying.

"If he hadn't been there, I think there'd have been a lot more downward faces; he knows which ones need him the most.

"He knows which nurses will have treats in his bag, he knows which ambulance drivers feed their lunch. He knows exactly who he's got wrapped round his little paws!"