THERE are fears for children receiving specialist care in Dorset after a hospital announced it will shut its doors just a year after opening.

Admissions to Blandford’s Priory Hospital were immediately suspended in July after the private facility – which treats children and young people up to the age of 18 who have learning disabilities or autism, along with a mental illness – failed an inspection.

Young people told inspectors they felt unsafe on the wardsand that there had been a number of incidents where young people had assaulted or were bullying each other. There were also several assaults on staff.

The Care Quality Commissioners found that staff used physical restraint frequently. Not all incidents – particularly around physical assault and racial abuse – were reported, according to inspectors.

This week, it was announced that the hospital will close altogether.

It is not yet known where its young patients will be treated. However, health bosses in Dorset said they are concerned about the closure of a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) service.

Stuart Lynch, CAMHS manager for Dorset HealthCare, said: “We were sad to hear about the closure of a local CAMHS unit when beds are so scarce.”

No major impact on local services are currently anticipated, he said.

“We are still hoping to build a new psychiatric intensive care unit at our Pebble Lodge site in Westbourne, which would boost local capacity for young people with the most complex needs and reduce the need for out-of-area placements,” Mr Lynch added.

A spokesman for the Priory Hospital said: “The decision to close a hospital is never taken lightly but after consultation with NHS England and others, we decided it is in the best interests of our patients to close Blandford Hospital in mid-December and concentrate our efforts on helping identify alternative provision for them.

“The hospital had been making progress, but an acute shortage of skilled and experienced nurses and clinicians – especially those qualified to manage the complex needs of our young people – meant we could not be sure those improvements could be sustained in the long-term.

“The nursing skills shortage felt by Blandford is being felt nationwide and is particularly acute where sites are rural and patients require high levels of round-the-clock care. We remain committed to helping patients in whatever way we can.”