PEOPLE’S views on a controversial bid to permanently close a Huntingdonshire mental health facility will be considered before a final decision on its future is made in March.

Sushil Jathanna, Chief Executive of NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough, which has run the consultation into the changes to mental health provision that ended on Monday, reassured protesters their views would be heard in a letter to the Hunts Post printed this week.

There has been widespread anger among former patients, their family members, health care professionals and councillors at plans to close Acer Ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, and move its 18 beds to Peterborough.

The facility, run by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, was 'temporarily' closed in October after clinicians deemed it unsafe. The home treatment team, which was based at the ward, has also been transferred to Peterborough.

Protesters are calling for the ward to be re-opened. They say since the closure patients and their families face transport difficulties and long delays arranging home visits.

Writing in this week's Hunts Post, Mr Jathanna said: "We understand the level of concern locally, and we will now be looking at how we can address these issues and ensure that good services are provided for all patients across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

"The proposal to permanently close Acer Ward at Hinchingbrooke Hospital is part of an ongoing consultation to transform mental health services across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

"If given the go-ahead, the new services will focus on providing easy to access, high-quality preventative services in the community, helping to improve the services received by patients."

Last week members of Huntingdonshire District Council's overview and scrutiny committee backed campaigners by unanimously rejecting the proposal to close the ward.

In a letter to NHS Cambridgeshire, committee chairman Councillor Steve Criswell criticised health bosses for failing to offer evidence the move would result in a better clinical outcome for patients.

He also pointed to a lack of consideration for travel issues and population growth, and condemned the consultation document as "misleading."

He added: "It is held that the formal closure of Acer Ward could be detrimental to the health and well-being of both patients and their visitors thereby impacting upon patient rehabilitation levels.

"The mentally ill often feel isolated and moving them to Peterborough would exacerbate this feeling. Evidence needs to be compiled on the potential effect of the proposals on existing patients."

A petition with more than 540 signatures objecting to the move has been sent by campaigner Anita Whateley, and St Ives town councillors have also written to NHS Cambridgeshire, calling for the facility to be re-opened.

INFORMATION: NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough held a public consultation on the proposals between Monday, October 17 2011 and Monday, January 16 2012. A final decision on the proposals will be made by NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough Board. All comments received from members of the public and organisations will feature in a consultation report to be presented to the board at their meeting on March 28.