Families of patients on a mental health ward for elderly people which could be privatised said they feared for the safety of their loved ones.

South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust (SWLSTG) is outsourcing care at Fuschias ward in Tolworth Hospital, home to seven patients from Kingston and Richmond with dementia.

The patients will remain on the ward, which will be leased to a contractor, but shrunk from 20 beds down to seven to fit the remaining patients while cutting costs.

The trust, in consultation with NHS Kingston, said it would commission an expert provider in dementia care and ensure staff were transferred over, but relatives raised concerns.

NHS organisations will have to compete with private firms to win the contract.

Louise Tarleton-Hodgson, whose father has been a patient on Fuschias ward since 2004, said private firms would be more concerned with making profit than looking after patients.

She was worried staff who have looked after patients for several years would be replaced with cheaper alternatives.

Mrs Tarleton-Hodgson said: “It has been proven that small changes to environment, such as the building work that will go on to the ward, will have a huge affect on a person with dementia and can even lead to their life being shortened.

“The staff are not happy because when they signed up they thought they would be working for the NHS, with job security.

“Now, like the families and patients, the future for them is uncertain.”

A joint statement released by SWLSTG and NHS Kingston said: “The trust has involved carers in reaching this decision and they support this approach.

“The trust has also kept staff informed through the process and will continue to do so. Staff working with these clients will remain working for Fuchsia’s ward.”

Gavin Davies, officer for the GMB union in south-west London, believed the motivation behind the move was to “manage the deaths” of patients and called on the trust to re-think the decision.

He said: “This is a blatant case of creeping privatisation in the NHS.”

NHS Kingston announced plans last year to make £676,000 in savings on mental health and was working on draft plans to identify another £1.44m during 2012-13.

Got a story? Call the newsdesk on 020 8744 4244.