CAMPAIGNERS battling to stop a dementia ward being moved out of Airedale General Hospital have presented health bosses with a 5,500-name petition.

People wanting Ward 24 to remain at Airedale handed over the petition yesterday to the Clinical Care Commissioners for Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven.

Designs for a new dementia service which will see the existing facility moved out of Airedale Hospital were approved earlier this year.

Bradford District Care Trust (BDCT) board has agreed to establish the service at Lynfield Mount Hospital, Bradford.

However, a spokesman for Carers Action Group for Ward 24 said he and his colleagues were appealing for senior health managers to reverse their decision.

He said: "During our collection of these petition signatures it has been a privilege to learn how positively Ward 24 is regarded by people in this area and what a good job BDCT and its staff have done in helping people through this ward.

"We were also surprised and encouraged by many people simply seeing our ‘Save Ward 24’ banner and coming to sign our petition before we said a word!"

The campaigners say Ward 24 users, some of whom live as far north as Ingleton, will face arduous journeys on public transport if the facility shifts to Bradford.

The carers action group also says: "Ward 24 has a great reputation and has had £500,000 spent on it over the last seven years. This will be wasted if it is closed and mothballed.

"The new ward at Lynfield Mount is to cost £2 million that we do not need to spend. We already have a great ward in the right place."

But BDCT bosses said basing the facility at Lynfield Mount would create a purpose-built centre of excellence, providing excellent standards of care.

A spokesman for NHS Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The plans to move dementia care services for adults and older people in Airedale, Bradford, and Craven were agreed in 2012, following a comprehensive public consultation.

“In line with the national dementia strategy, our priority is to provide more integrated mental health services closer to people’s homes and to meet this priority, we've invested in additional mental health specialists to support patients with dementia in the community.

"This means hospital services aren't used as much as they were in the past. If a patient with dementia needs to be treated in hospital, this should be in an appropriate environment to promote a speedy recovery and return home wherever possible.

"Staff and service users, along with representatives from Ward 24 Carers’ Action Group and Healthwatch, have worked closely with BDCT in the planning and design of the new Lynfield Mount facilities.

"In response to feedback from Ward 24 Carers’ Action Group, the scheme to help with extra travel costs for those people affected by the changes has been extended from three to five years and covers costs for taxis, car mileage and public transport.

“We have funded four dedicated care home beds in Keighley, specifically for patients suffering from dementia but who also have a physical illness.

“We believe BDCT has worked hard to address and resolve any concerns raised by Ward 24 Carers’ Action Group.”