A LEADING psychiatrist behind a shocking new report which links the closure of care homes to the deaths of elderly people has been enlisted to advise Lancashire County Council.

Professor David Jolley, who specialises in geriatric care, says in his report that the trauma of moving frail residents causes distress, depression and even death.

And he says that the emotional impact is similar to suffering the death of a spouse as many are too old and infirm to undergo the upheaval.

Bosses at Lancashire County Council - who plan to axe 32 out of 35 care homes - have promised not to move anyone whose health would be affected.

And they say that the professor has seen their future care home plans and has praised them as being "thorough" and "well thought out".

Prof Jolley, former medical director for Wolverhampton Health Care NHS Trust, prepared the report for a High Court case on behalf of those opposing plans by Lancashire County Council to reduce its care homes.

He said: "It is an inescapable truism that relocation is a stressful event and can precipitate problems of mental health, physical health and even bring forth death."

"For older people, moving residence is amongst the highest risk factors for triggering an anxiety response.

"It is only marginally less significant than the death of a spouse.

"Transfer experiences are often extremely traumatic, despite the best intentions of everyone concerned."

A spokesman for Lancashire County Council, said: "We have already engaged the services of Professor David Jolley to advise us as we take forward our plans.

"The welfare of our care home residents is our primary concern. We fully appreciate the trauma and stress any move can create, especially for older people.

"We have pledged we will minimise the number of people moving and are working with Professor Jolley to ensure that those moves that do need to take place are managed in the best possible way.

"The Professor has seen all our plans for the future and has praised them as being thorough and well thought out.

"He also felt they offer a sensitive and responsible process that will achieve a better structure for services in the future whilst having the least possible adverse effects on our current residents and their families."