Demonstrators holding banners held a protest outside a Whalley-based hospital threatened with closure.
NHS officials are proposing the closure of England’s last long-stay 223-bed learning disability hospital at Calderstones.
Now known as Mersey Care Whalley, the move will also lead to the creation of more community support for people with learning disability or autism in the region.
On Monday, delegates from NHS England arrived at the facility for a meeting and were handed a petition by union representatives and staff protesting against the closure. The petition was presented Clare Duggan, Director of Commissioning Operations NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside).
The establishment employs 800 members of staff who are currently looking after 139 patients – 100 of those are receiving medium to secure care.
Unison branch secretary, Chris Chamley, believes knocking the facility down is a waste of taxpayer’s money and is calling on public support to stop the facility from closing down.
He said: “Three years ago the NHS spent over £7m. on a state-of-the-art low secure mental health unit in Whalley. Now they want to knock it down. They want to rebuild these low secure beds elsewhere in the North West - costing the taxpayer an extra £2.7m. every year and taking 800 jobs out of the region.”
He added: “We, the undersigned: believe the closure of Mersey Care Whalley Division will have a negative impact on business and the local economy. The hundreds of staff that this hospital employs enrich our village and importantly bring money to our businesses. The loss of this employer, which is one of the biggest in the Ribble Valley, will be of detriment to Whalley and its surrounding villages.
“We need as many people as possible to add their voices to the consultation before February 23rd, 2017.”
As reported last month in the Clitheroe Advertiser, under new proposals published by NHS England, MerseyCare Whalley would close completely and a smaller number of low-secure beds would be provided around the North West.
Patients receiving medium to secure care would be transferred to a new unit, operated by Mersey Care at Maghull, or an alternative, which would see some low-secure services continue, with the same medium-secure provisions.
The move is aimed at ensuring people with learning disabilities and/or autism have a greater choice in their pathway of care with equal and fair access to services; be able to live in a community setting and continue to receive care and treatment closer to home.