A DEMENTIA inpatient unit at Charter House in Trowbridge is temporarily closing due to low occupancy just as figures released by Alzheimers Support show the number of people diagnosed with the illness continues to rise.

Over the coming weeks, the three remaining patients being treated at the mental health centre, in Seymour Road, will be moved to alternative accommodation as near to their families as possible, with some Wiltshire Councillors fearing the unit may close permanently.

The decision for the temporary closure was made by the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust with the organisation saying it has around 20 unoccupied beds.

Ray Chalmers, AWP head of communications, said: “Following preliminary discussions between AWP, NHS Wiltshire and the Clinical Commissioning Groups, AWP has decided to temporarily stop admitting patients to the unit during the current joint review of all care provided to older people across the county – particularly those with dementia.

“AWP is committed to ensuring services continue to be provided within west Wiltshire and Charter House will continue to provide the team base serving Trowbridge and West Wiltshire, as well as providing the outpatient clinics currently held there.”

Staff who work at the inpatient unit will be reassigned while the AWP plans to keep its partners, which include Wiltshire Council, informed about what the future holds for Charter House.

Figures released by the charity, Alzheimers Support, show the number of Wiltshire people with dementia on doctors’ registers rose to 6,736, an increase of 425, with the figure anticipated to rise to 9,077 by 2021.

Wiltshire and Trow-bridge councillor Jeff Osborn said: “Practically everybody I know has got a friend who has been affected by dementia and I just can’t see there’s a lack of demand.

“The last thing we need is for Charter House to close as we could get people being shunted as far away as Bristol which isn’t right.”

Fellow Wiltshire and Trowbridge councillor Graham Payne said: “They said much the same when they closed the Cameron Ward at Chippenham Community Hospital.

“This illness is not going to go away and to shut this down without consultation is a very stupid move, I suspect motivated by finance.”

Cllr Payne, chairman of Trowbridge Area Board, said he doubted the inpatients unit would reopen and it would be a disadvantage to those in the town who needed support for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “This is an AWP decision. However, our main priority is to ensure people can get a service as close to their home as possible.

“We are also keen staff and local people are consulted.”

During the temporary closure of the inpatients unit, Charter House is planning to provide additional memory service clinics as part of a joint project with NHS Wiltshire.

Mr Chalmers said: “AWP is committed to working closely with health and social care partners to deliver the best quality services for the people of Wiltshire.”