A HEALTH boss has raised fears about the future safety of hospital patients after the trust failed to secure funding for a new premises.

Calderstones Hospital chiefs had been planning to transfer patients who have exceptionally complex mental health disorders from the site in Whalley to a new 40-bed low-security unit in Maghull, Merseyside.

But Mersey Care Whalley NHS Foundation Trust, the NHS organisation that runs Calderstones (now Mersey Care Whalley), has been unsuccessful in bidding for £35m of capital funding needed for the building work.

It has seen the trust put forward alternative proposals to continue running services at Calderstones as part of a “multipurpose community site” that would also include specialist support teams, community crisis beds, a GP surgery and affordable housing.

The only NHS hospital in Britain that specialises in learning disabilities had been due to close in 2019, but that closure has been scaled back with uncertainty over the future of low-secure services on the site and elsewhere.

While medium secure learning disability services will continue on the site until the summer of 2020, with a new £60million replacement medium secure unit at Maghull expected to be ready for May/June 2020.

Mersey Care, which acquired Calderstones Partnership FT in 2016, has discharged around 130 patients from the Calderstones site into alternative services, but there continue to be patients that remain.

Now Mersey Care’s chief executive Joe Rafferty has warned in a letter to the national commissioner, obtained by the Health Service Journal through a freedom of information request, that the ongoing uncertainty is posing an enormous risk to service users and staff.

Mr Rafferty said: “At present, Mersey Care is operating a safe service at the site through a rigorous process of staff management and support.

“However, we now feel that we are at the outer limits of being able to keep this site safe and even small incremental drifts in staffing numbers would pose a significant threat to the running of safe services at Whalley for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

Mersey Care did not wish to comment further when approached.

A spokesman for NHS England, which sees closing Calderstones as a key part of its transforming care programme for learning disability services, which seeks to move patients out of institution-type facilities, said: “The last round of NHS capital allocations by Department of Health and Social Care was squeezed by the need to provide emergency public funding following the collapse of Carillion, so as to support the partly completed new hospitals in Birmingham and Liverpool. But we strongly support capital funding for the closure of Calderstones and will be pushing for it, providing appropriate support is in place for everyone to ensure a smooth transition to any new care service.”