ELDERLY patients, some with less than three months to live, have been told to leave their nursing home within six weeks.

Families of residents at the Hayrick Nursing Home are furious, and aslo annoyed that they had no idea that an application had been lodged to turn the home into flats.

Staff have draped the home at Lanchester, with 'save our home' banners and held a weekend meeting to discuss how to tackle the situation.

The first many families knew that their elderly relatives had to leave was when they received a solicitor's letter last Friday.

It said: "It is with regret that we must serve this notice upon you on (our clients') behalf to terminate your contract of residence. The home will officially close on September 7."

Matron at the home Elizabeth Shaw said that three patients had just three months to live.

County Durham Social Services had referred another client just last Wednesday.

She said the owner, Dr M. Anwar Hossain, a former consultant at Durham's Dryburn Hospital, had had the premises up for sale for some time, but it was thought it would be sold on as a nursing home.

Derwentside District Council confirmed an application had been received to turn the home into flats on July 12.

A Lanchester man, whose mother-in-law is in the home, said he is seeking alternative accommodation for her.

The man, who did not wish to be named, said: "Nobody can believe this.

"The first inkling we had was when nearby households were served notice of the application from the council."

Mr Hossain, who is understood to have sold the property to a builder earlier this week, was unavailable for comment.