A CARE home offering respite services for people with learning disabilities is to close temporarily because of difficulties over staffing levels.

The decision, affecting Thorn Heys in Oxton, has been made by Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and NHS Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group as consultation on the centre's long-term future continues.

The closure will come into effect on Monday.

A spokesperson for the group told the Globe: "We regretfully have had to make the decision to temporarily close Thorn Heys.

"This is an emergency response to difficulties in maintaining safe levels of staffing.

"Our priority is always to provide a safe and effective service for local people.

"Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, NHS Wirral Clinical Commissioning Group and Wirral Council are working together to support the families affected by this situation and are investigating all alternative short respite breaks to meet their individual needs.

"Twenty two people are currently accessing this service and typically will attend for around 42 days per year.

"In recent years there has been considerable debate around the care people with learning disabilities should receive and, rather than hospital-based support, increasingly more support is being provided within the community.

"This is part of the national Transforming Care agenda and as such, commissioners from the health service and the council have been talking about how they can work together to arrange new services, under a proposed new model of care, which will be subject to consultation.

"Unfortunately, whilst these discussions have been ongoing, it has become apparent that it will be difficult to maintain safe levels of staff at Thorn Heys from February 11 onwards and a decision has been made to temporarily suspend services.

"This is a short-term measure and we are looking at what we can do to reinstate the service as soon as possible.

"We are exploring all opportunities to support families and service users in the immediate weeks ahead.

"This includes trying to recruit new staff and filling the vacancies with temporary staff.

"We would like to stress that the long-term future of the service, including the model for short breaks, is subject to consultation.

"Although we have engaged with people accessing services and their families on numerous occasions, no decision will be made on its future until after the consultation has ended and consideration given to the feedback received."

Oxton Liberal Democrat councillor Stuart Kelly said: "The trust's statement fails to answer any of the questions service users will have.

"There is no explanation of why staff are unavailable, how long the 'temporary' situation will last, or what alternative provision is to be made.

"Respite provision is important for families caring for loved ones with learning disabilities and the uncertainty caused by the suspension of this service without adequate explanation at Thorn Heys is not acceptable.

"Thorn Heys is located in ideal surroundings in the heart of Oxton conservation area which provides peaceful surroundings for respite care, I hope this isn't a back-door attempt to close this facility".