NHS bosses have confirmed that a mental health ward in Burnley is still due to close – despite delays in finalising arrangements.

Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust has been winding down operations at the Casterton Avenue site as part of a major countywide reorganisation.

And Ward 18 was due to close during this financial year, saving £720,000 for the trust’s in-year £7.45million cost improvement plan.

But it has been confirmed the plans are slightly behind schedule – though the ward is still expected to finally close this year.

Work was approved by Burnley councillors to provide a fresh-air balcony, in January, to solve an accommodation issue on the wing.

Patients were going ‘absent without leave’ while being taken off the ward for exercise so plans were drawn up for a secure external area.

East Lancashire patients from Blackburn’s Pendle View and Hill View are also understood to have been relocated to Burnley while accommodation there was refurbished.

Trust chiefs have been working on a programme to provide more community services, decreasing the need for in-patient beds.

A Lancashire Trust spokesman said: “As part of this gradual reduction, the beds currently provided on Ward 18 at Burnley General Hospital are due to close.

“The date for this closure is yet to be confirmed and this will only take place when it is clinically appropriate to do so.

“The trust has considered future alternative uses for the space currently occupied by Ward 18 and it was identified that with some minor construction work there was the possibility to provide safe access to outdoor space from the ward.

“This has the full support of the Care Quality Commission and the trust remains committed to providing the best possible facilities it can for the duration of the transition programme.”

East Lancashire dementia patients are currently cared for in Blackpool.