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.

The trust hopes to have the unit of 22 en-suite rooms up and running by next month.

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, which met at Skipton’s Rendezvous Hotel on Friday: “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 Bradford 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,” she said.

So far campaigners have collected 5,500 names on an opposition petition from people in Settle, Ilkley and Keighley, and expect it will rise to 10,000 when they have finished rallying support.

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 with other multiple and complex medical conditions, they need to be in a general hospital.

“Lynfield Mount is a taxi or ambulance journey away from Bradford Royal Infirmary.”

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 where it was 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.