Urgent review demanded over plan to close Burnley mental health wards

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AN URGENT review has been called over proposals to shut mental health in-patient wards at Burnley General Hospital.

The Express revealed last month that health bosses planned to close services in Burnley and move to a new unit at the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

MP Gordon Birtwistle has vowed to fight the proposed closure along with leading Lancashire County Council figures in Burnley but fears are that this could be yet another blow to key health services in the town.

Under the plans, Burnley’s mental health in-patient wards could be moved to the Hillview Unit, in Blackburn, which is set to be redeveloped over the next five years.

A new £35m. specialised mental health centre was earmarked for Burnley but the plans were scrapped to cut costs and now services look likely to be centralised at Blackburn.

The move aims to reduce bed numbers across East Lancashire and put a larger emphasis on providing care in the community but opponents say it will make care less accessible to patients in Burnley.

Some services will be transferred to Burnley General Hospital in the interim while refurbishment work begins on the Blackburn wards in November, but ultimately the town looks likely to lose beds to Blackburn.

County Coun. Margaret Brindle, who is part of the Health Scrunity Committee at County Hall, said she is challenging the decision in a bid to halt the move.

“We have asked for a review of the removal of beds from Burnley to Blackburn. It has not been officially decided yet but the tone of many letters says it will be going forward and it is a done deal.

“It is Burnley that is losing out again. It is an on-going battle to save Burnley jobs and Burnley services following on from the closure of A&E and the Deerplay ward and so on. We want beds retaining here in the town but it looks like the way the plans have progressed that we may not be particularly successful.

“But we will fight to get the best deal for Burnley.”

Burnley and Padiham MP Gordon Birtwistle said: “We are fighting it. The whole thing is a shambles. We want the original proposals of bringing mental health facilities to Burnley at the Burnley Bridge site or at the hospital. That was the original plan and there is no reason it shouldn’t go ahead. We will be challenging it.”

A spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that a transition plan has been developed to decommission existing facilities and develop new accommodation over the next five years.

He said: “The Trust is committed to ensuring quality and consistency of services across Lancashire as well as ensuring best value in the use of public sector resources and reducing the requirement for under occupied wards.”