THE Ministry of Defence (MoD) is to close a hospital and medical centre that has served both the Army and residents for nearly 40 years, it has emerged.

Military bosses are considering sending military personnel at Catterick Garrison, the largest British Army garrison in the world, 13 miles to RAF Leeming, near Bedale, for treatment, following the closure of The Duchess of Kent Barracks, on March 1.

South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said its orthopaedic services had recently been relocated to the Friary Hospital, in Richmond, and Friarage Hospital, in Northallerton, while paediatric outpatient clinics had moved to Catterick Village, Leyburn and Colburn.

While MoD officials declined to specify the affected services, it has been claimed the site houses the garrison's medical centre and the Department of Community Mental Health, which serves all of the garrison's units and soldiers across the North, making it the busiest mental health department in the British Army.

Sources said the hospital has housed the regional occupational health team, which deals with medical boards and medical discharges, and a "bedding down ward" for injured soldiers and civilian x-ray and ante-natal departments.

Catterick Garrison has a population of about 13,000, which is expected to swell to 25,000 by 2020.

It is believed there has been no consultation over the move, which follows the MoD concluding numerous key components of the 1976 building were no longer fit for use.

The building was built as a temporary hospital structure and while the property has been regularly maintained, the closure of the major surgical and hospital elements in 1999 meant upgrades were ruled out.

An MoD spokesman said: "Contingency measures have been implemented to ensure the key military medical and clinical operational services are maintained.

"HQ Catterick Garrison will issue instructions to Duchess of Kent Barracks users giving further details of these measures covering short and medium term plans.

“A number of options are being considered, which includes the option to use existing military facilities at RAF Leeming. However, no decision has been made as yet.”

Richmondshire District Council leader Councillor John Blackie, who has battled to retain NHS services in the area, said he was appalled by the decision.

He said: "The Duchess of Kent services the garrison which has a very large number of young families, many of whom won't have their own transport, often with husbands or partners serving overseas.

"It seems almost like they are doing this without thinking about the wider impact as communities need to have peace of mind that local NHS services will be on their doorstep."