HEALTH chiefs have backed residents who are campaigning to keep a care home open.

Relatives and staff are holding a protest march today against plans to close Graceland, in Guisborough.

And the campaigners received a boost when a spokesman for the Langbaurgh Primary Care Trust announced that the trust "is battling to keep the closure- threatened home open''.

Barry Parvin, proprietor of the home, claims Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and the trust have not been paying him enough money to keep his staff above the minimum wage.

The council refutes the claim and estimates that the home is making a profit of £52,000 a year.

Closure of Graceland would leave 51 residents without homes and 60 staff without jobs. It would also increase the council's beds crisis, with the imminent closure of Nessfield Care Home, Nunthorpe, and the recent closure of Bupa's St David's Care Home, Redcar.

A spokesman for the trust said: "We are responsible for the nursing care of 36 of the residents currently residing there, and will fight any plans for closure - especially if the residents are to be displaced at the expense of a housing development.

"Those under our responsibility are classed as elderly mentally infirm.

"Routine and familiar surroundings are key to maintaining their health. Moving them is the last thing we want to do,'' said the spokesman.

"This is a very anxious time for the families. We are supporting them in any way we can, and our door is always open if they wish to discuss the situation with us, as we work to find a solution.''

Councillor Valerie Halton, council cabinet member for social services, says the home has had a 24 per cent increase in payments during the last two years.

The council claims that Mr Parvin plans to sell the Graceland site to developers.

Mr Parvin is on holiday in Florida and could not be contacted for comment.

The campaigners hope to win more support in the anti-closure campaign.