HOSPITAL staff, patients and members of the public have voiced their concerns over plans to axe a mental health ward.
More than 30 people attended a public meeting at Ellesmere Port Civic Hall to have their say on proposed changes to the health-care system.
Cheshire West and Ellesmere Port and Neston Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), which are due to merge in October in a bid to ease their financial headaches, must recoup more than £42m.
To achieve this the cash-strapped health body is looking to make cuts to mental health services at Chester's Bowmere Hospital, which takes patients from across the borough.
These include a ward closure, reducing the number of beds and axing one of its community mental health teams, which could result in possible staff redundancies.
Despite support for bed reductions, the other proposals were met with great concern and pleas were made to maintain the ward at Bowmere and not to remove one of its five support teams.
Staff also raised fears over workload implications and feedback forms were handed in with suggestions on ways to improve the health service and type of care delivered.
Ellesmere Port and Neston PCT chairman Michael Darby said all views would be taken into consideration before finalising any proposals.
He said: 'We're very grateful to those who involved themselves in the consultation meeting and very appreciative of their contribution.'
A number of the proposed changes will affect Ellesmere Port Hospital, where Sapphire Ward - which was closed for 12 months in March - is to remain shut while alternative uses are explored.
Possible options include providing sexual health services, a wound clinic, day hospital provision or health promotion.
Other proposals include a re-view of the care delivered to stroke patients and changing the rehabilitation ward to a transitional care facility for patients who do not need to be in an acute hospital but are unable to return home.
As a result of the review, staff may be redeployed to other areas of the hospital.
To see the proposals in more detail, visit the organisations' websites - www.epnpct.nhs.uk or www.cwpct.nhs.uk listed under 'Publications'.
The consultation process does not end until Friday, July 28, so people can still have their say by writing to the PCTs, ringing the Freephone number 0800 132996 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.