A NEW action group has been formed in York to challenge the closure of the city's only NHS mental hospital, Bootham Park.

It will be led by Dr Bob Adams, a former consultant psychiatrist at the hospital for almost 25 years, who now works for the Mental Health Tribunal Service.

Another expert at the meeting at the Friends' Meeting House said suggestions that Bootham Park was unsuitable for modern psychiatric services because of its age were inaccurate.

Neil Redfern, principal inspector for Ancient Monuments for Yorkshire for Historic England, said that Bootham Park's status as a Grade I listed building would not be an obstacle for future use. "We think the building is more than capable of adapting to modern society," he said.

He added Historic England (formerly English Heritage) were not joining any pressure group but supported the idea of retaining the building for its original purpose. Before the closure, Historic England had agreed with York council on a programme of works that would have brought Bootham Park up to standard.

The building had been designed in the 1770s to have the large area of parkland in front of it and this was also protected under the Grade I listed status.

Bootham Park closed on October 1 following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC’s inspectors were concerned about the risk of suicide or serious harm to patients due to ligature points.

As well as this, patients were at risk of serious scalding from high water temperatures – maintenance had not been carried out to guarantee their safety.

The new pressure group, Mental Health Action York (MHAY), comprises doctors, former nursing staff at Bootham Park and patients and is calling for the re-opening of Bootham Park at least as an interim measure.

In the longer term the group committed itself to fighting for an adequate number of acute psychiatric beds to be provided near the centre of York.

Dr Adams said, "The reasons given for the closure of Bootham Park were a distraction. The CQC could have re-registered it temporarily.

"I hope this new action group will try to look to the future, rather than what went went on in the past."

Earlier this week, the Tees and Esk Wear Valleys NH Foundation Trust said it remained committed to building a new state-of-the-art hospital in York by 2019 and hoped a temporary hospital could be opened at Peppermill Court of Huntington Road by next summer.