A WARD in Thurrock’s Community Hospital could be closed as part of plans to cut services for elderly people with mental health problems in south Essex.

The NHS is set to launch a consultation over proposals to reduce the number of beds at care centres across south Essex from 142 to 122.

The sites which could be affected are Mayfield Ward in Thurrock Hospital, Cherrydown Ward in Basildon Mental Health Unit, Mountnessing Court in Billericay, Rawreth Court and Clifton Lodge in Westcliff.

South West Essex Primary Care Trust, which is organising the proposed changes, has not yet decided which homes will have their beds cut.

The trust, acting on behalf of both PCTs in south Essex, insisted the move was because beds are currently under-used.

Respite care would not be affected by any proposed changes.

About 20 staff could also be affected and “redundancy cannot be ruled out” a report from the trust says.

But campaign group Southend’s Older People’s Assembly criticised the proposed changes.

Chairman Simon Morton said: “South East Essex has seen the cutting of services for many years, reduction of service beds in the mental health sector would be detrimental to our wellbeing.

“The Older People’s Assembly has always championed the need to keep pace with the service users and common to their needs. Our generation is one fifth of the UK population and if these cuts are implemented, where do we find the extras when needed?

“The PCTs must ensure those in need are not put at risk through what has always been a monetary issue.”

Consultation is due to start in December and the changes are likely to take place in May 2009.