A NEW £32m unit for patients with learning disabilities will not be housed at an East Lancashire hospital site, it has emerged.

Health chiefs at Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCFT) were awarded the major cash injection as part of the government's Critical Bed Gaps programme.

And since then LSCFT has been building up an outline business case for a 14-bed facility which could cater for the needs of patients locally, saving on the need for expensive out-of-area placements.

Detailed consideration was given to repurposing one of the Maplewood units, at the former Calderstones Hospital site, near Whalley, which the trust had acquired from fellow NHS Trust Mersey Care.

But trust chiefs believed it would prove too difficult to commission learning disability beds at Maplewood again after a comprehensive NHS England review in 2017 saw the axe fall on Calderstones.

In a joint board report, Michelle Nicklin, the trust's programmes head, and Joanna Stark, delivery director, told directors there was the potential the site's Care Quality Commission registration would be rejected.

The senior figures also reported that Maplewood would not comply with the Carter review on NHS efficiency and the NHS's own Green Plan, even if the building was to refurbished.

Their report also noted the building was "very linear/inflexible", and "double-sided corridors means dark internal spaces with no views out/institutional feel. Corridors are also very narrow and not to latest best practice/guidance."

It was also felt the unit had "poor sensory design qualities. Limited learning disability friendly design features such as access to external space, poor acoustics, transition zones and calming spaces."

The report also said the facility had "poor sight lines" and its layout would place extra demands on staffing.

Trust board members have heard the 'preferred option' for the learning disability unit, which would cater for patients who may also have autism and/or a mental illness, is a new-build development at Guild Park, at Whittingham.

The report authors added: "A new build at Guild Park will deliver a person-centred pathway that puts people and their families at the heart of what LSCFT do through co-production, co-design and co-development of services to ensure the building is designed at every stage with the needs of service users in mind."

If the outline business case is approved by NHS leaders nationally then the new unit could operational by July 2025.

Some patients formerly housed at the Whalley site have been transferred to a new medium secure unit at Maghull, run by Mersey Care, which used to operate the former Calderstone site. Others have been relocated to community settings over the past few years.

But the LSCFT board was told that four patients would remain on site on at Whalley, and be cared for in four separate properties, under the Lancashire trust's portfolio.