CONCERNS are mounting over the care of youngsters with mental health issues after closure of a hospital’s wards where patients were found to be at high risk of “avoidable harm”.

Darlington Borough Council heard the closure of inpatient wards at West Lane Hospital, which provided mental health services to children and young people, in Middlesbrough last year had led to children being treated there being sent to mental health units across the country.

Councillor Eleanor Lister said it was vital that the young patients were as close as possible to their families and friends, who played key support roles.

She said: “As a corporate parent I think we ought to know how far away some of our children are and how far their parents have to travel to visit them.”

The authority’s children and young people’s portfolio holder Councillor Paul Crudass said three children from Darlington borough had been in West Lane when it was closed by the Care Quality Commission and had since been transferred to other units.

Cllr Crudass said one had gone to the south coast, one to Peterlee and the other to York.

He said: “It is very important, if possible, that we get West Lane back in operation. It has been operating for 22 years and have provided some fantastic service. It is a disaster that we have lost it and we will do everything we can to try and get it back in operating conditions.”

Following the meeting, Tees, Esk and Wear Valley NHS Trust, which ran the Acklam Road unit, said the decision over commissioning mental health beds for children rested with NHS England.

Darlington Safeguarding Partnership has written to NHS England to establish whether any bed provision would be provided in the local area following the closure of the hospital.

In October NHS England commissioned an independent inquiry into the deaths of two teenage patients at the unit last summer.

A total of 20 staff members were suspended by the trust in the 12 months leading up to the ward closures. Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald said patients had “very real cause for complaint” about their treatment.

The trust has apologised to the patients’ families for the poor care.