SEVENTEEN elderly patients with dementia or other mental health issues will have to be found new homes after the NHS decided it could no longer afford to keep their under-occupied care home open.

The closure of the 24-bed St John’s Care Home in Hundens Lane, Darlington, which had seven unoccupied rooms, will also mean that 38 staff are looking for new jobs.

While the charity which runs the care home has said every effort will be made to find staff new jobs at other care homes, it said redundancies seemed inevitable.

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Patients, family members and staff were told about the closure plans on Thursday (August 21).

The youngest resident is aged 65 while the oldest is 97. Some had been living there for years.

Darlington Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have been paying the charity Community Integrated Care (CIC) to run St John’s Care Home for the last few years.

But following changes to the way continuing NHS care is funded, the CCG decided it could no longer justify funding the under-occupied home.

Following discussions, CIC agreed that the only alternative was to close St John’s.

In a joint statement Darlington CCG and CIC said: “Unfortunately, St John’s can no longer offer the standard of living environment expected in a modern care home.

"Local people have a choice of many newer, more flexible homes and this has meant that demand for the service at St John’s has steadily fallen in recent years, creating many vacancies.

“St John’s has, for some time, been subsidised by CIC and the changes to funding now make this arrangement completely unsustainable to the charity in the long-term.

“After very serious consideration, we have reached the difficult decision that we can no longer continue to operate the service at St John’s and the home will close on October 31, 2014.

"We have spent a long time looking at every alternative option, with the best interests of residents and staff in mind, but there are simply no viable options available to us.”

“The wellbeing of residents is absolutely paramount and we will do everything possible ensure that the move to their new homes a smooth, positive and successful one.

"We are committed to working in close partnership to manage with this situation in the most sensitive and well-planned way possible for residents, their loved ones and staff.”