A HEALTH watchdog says cuts in mental health services pose a danger to patients and the public.
Closing a ward and axing a community mental health team are proposed for Chester's Bowmere Hospital which opened last March.
But the Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) Forum says the £2m savings being forced upon Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust - which manages the hospital - are 'unfair, inequitable and unwise'.
Deputy chairman Murdo Kennedy explained: 'Unfair in that our
mental health trust has balanced its books and is not the cause of the financial difficulties. Inequitable in that mental health services are nevertheless being asked to take nearly double the level of cuts of any other service.
'Unwise in that reduced services for some of our most vulnerable people will increase risks for both patients and the public.' Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Trust is asked to absorb the savings as part of a cost-cutting financial recovery plan created by cash-strapped funders at Cheshire West and Ellesmere Port & Neston Primary Care Trusts.
Mr Kennedy previously called for the resignation of Jacqui Harvey, chief executive of the PCTs, unless a commitment not to disproportionately target mental health services was honoured.
And concerned managers at the mental health care trust supported the views of the patient watchdog saying patients would be put in danger.
But the Trust's acting chief executive Dr Ian Davidson now says: 'We remain committed to being a cost effective, high quality service provider and building on our track record of delivering innovative services to whatever level of funding the PCTs make available.'
Partnership Trust spokeswoman Sarah Jones said staff redundancies would only be looked at when all other options had been considered but couldn't be ruled out.
There are also two public meetings to discuss health care changes: at 6pm on Tuesday, June 27, in Ellesmere Port Civic Hall or on Tuesday, July 4 in The Quaker Meeting House, Frodsham Street, Chester. It also possible for community groups to invite a representative from the PCTs to talk to them.