THE cash crisis crippling Morecambe Bay Primary Care Trust could lead to the closure of a specialist unit at Lancaster's Ridge Lea Hospital.

But while the Castle Unit, a five-bedded alcohol detoxification unit, may close its doors, patients with mental ill health could be transferred to Ridge Lea from the Westmorland General Hospital.

A public consultation is to be held into proposed closure of the Castle Unit - it would save the PCT £50,000 in the current financial year and around £200,000 per year after that.

The PCT board claims that the development of a community-based alcohol treatment service could also lead to a reduction in the level of residential support provided at Harvey House, also in Lancaster.

Another public consultation will be held into the possible transfer of the acute assessment in-patient services for adults with mental ill-health from Ward Four at the Westmorland General Hospital to the Thunham Unit at Ridge Lea.

The Thurnham Unit is currently vacant and money would have to be spent to upgrade it, but the board believes it could save around £200,000 per year in facility costs with the transfer of services.

Currently patients from Lancaster and Morecambe are treated in Kendal, with 10 of the 25 beds available at the Kentmere Ward used for the admission of service users from Lancaster.

No-one at the PCT was available to comment as the Citizen went to press on Tuesday despite repeated efforts to make contact.