A health boss has come under fire for plans to axe a ward for dementia patients at Airedale Hospital and shift it 14 miles to Bradford.

Allison Bingham, Bradford District Care Trust’s deputy director of adult services, was told the plan to relocate it to Lynfield Mount Hospital would cause distress and hardship, especially to the elderly.

Bradford District Care Trust hopes to have the unit of 22 en-suite rooms up and running by May.

But opponents claimed it showed a marked lack of compassion for elderly carers, especially those living in the far reaches of Craven, who face very long journeys.

County Councillor Shelagh Marshall told North Yorkshire’s scrutiny of health committee: “What is lacking here is compassion with care. I think you will have a big job gaining the confidence of the public.”

Doreen Lee, a Keighley East councillor, illustrated the plight of her aged aunt and uncle if the changes went ahead.

“She is in her 80s and in Ward 24 and he is 88 and goes to see her every day.

“Can you imagine what it would be like if he had to travel to Bradford and even if he managed it I wouldn’t like to think of him catching a bus late at night to return home.

“Another person came to me crying, asking how could she visit her husband so far away.”

So far campaigners have collected 5,500 names on an opposition petition.

The Rev David Griffiths, chairman of the Ward 24 Carers Action Group, said the plan was not an example of efficiency but a waste of £2.5 million to save £300,000 a year.

“Because people with dementia are generally older and have other multiple and complex medical conditions, they need to be in a general hospital,” he said.

Ms Bingham told the meeting that transport costs would be offered to people for the first three years and there was a chance to consider extending it, if necessary.

She said that retaining the unit at Airedale had been considered but the advice from experts was that Airedale was less suitable for people with dementia and would be better as a ward for people with functional illnesses such as depression and anxiety.