FEARS are growing for mental health patients on the Fylde coast after it was revealed half the beds at a hospital have closed.
A total of 44 beds have shut at the Parkwood unit, on Whinney Heys Road, Blackpool, in the past year.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust closed Stirling ward in November 2011 and Warwick ward in March, leaving 44 beds remaining.
Now a Blackpool councillor has called for answers over a delay in the construction of a new 154-bed inpatient facility – The Harbour – at Whyndyke Farm in Marton.
Bloomfield councillor John Jones has written to the chief executive of Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, Prof Heather Tierney-Moore, to express his concerns.
Planning permission had been granted for the unit to replace Parkwood’s ageing building, with work due to begin in April this year.
But health bosses admit it has been put back until early next year.
Poulton resident Sheila Rothwell, whose son Ian Foster killed himself in 2006 after being plagued by mental health problems, said she was worried.
She said: “I can’t understand how they can be reducing beds, when sometimes it was so full they had to turn Ian away. Surely mental health issues are more prevalent now with the recession and unemployment. What happens to those people now?
“There must be more than 44 people with mental health problems in Blackpool. Psychiatric services are the poor relation.”
Coun Jones said he was concerned by the delay in The Harbour being built. He added: “There are no assurances when work will start.
“I had been informed there would be a gradual decrease in acute beds at Parkwood, with the transition to The Harbour. But bed capacity has been lost with quite alarming speed.
“The community mental health teams are stretched – where do people with acute mental health problems to go for help? We are talking about vulnerable people.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said: “We acknowledge the anticipated start date has slipped however the Trust is determined that construction work will begin early in 2013. The trust has been finding a suitable funding solution that represents value for money and is sustainable.
“A review has been undertaken to identify ways of achieving a reduction in the construction cost, which will reduce the cost of borrowing. This has involved minor re-design work and re-submission to planning authorities.
“The trust is constantly monitoring inpatient capacity and demand to ensure a safe and effective service. Following the reduction of beds at Parkwood, there are no plans at this stage to further reduce bed numbers until 2015, at which point The Harbour will become operational.”
The trust is holding a public meeting on December 11, between 4pm and 6pm, at Clifton Christian Centre, on Langdale Road, in Mereside. New plans for the unit will be on display.