The South West’s only psychiatric intensive care unit for young people is to close.
The Banksy ward at Bristol’s Priory hospital has 12 beds for children at risk of suicide or of being violent.
The closest such unit in England is about 90 miles away in Maidenhead, Berkshire, which would mean longer journeys for families and patients.
The Priory said the closure was down to difficulties recruiting permanent, specialist staff.
“We are working closely with patients, families and NHS England to ensure the four young people on the ward receive the smooth transfer to a setting which bests suits their needs,” a spokesman said.
They also confirmed a “serious incident” had happened on the ward in June.
“Following an internal investigation, an incident was reported to the police in June where our clinical policies were not followed by an agency member of staff, and they are currently investigating the issue.
“The agency employee is no longer working at the hospital.”
The Banksy ward has cared for children and young people aged between 13 and 18 with acute mental health disturbances.
The Bristol Cable has been looking into staffing issues there for some time.
Matty Edwards, a journalist with the Cable, said: “Children are there because they’re having a mental health crisis.
“The Priory has had a problem with keeping permanent staff, so they’ve been reliant on agency staff.
“Although it’s only a small number of patients, they could potentially be sent miles away from home, which is obviously worrying.”
Patients and staff will be moved from Banksy and the ward may reopen – but not for children and young people in crisis.
The BBC understands the ward was temporarily closed to new admissions last autumn.
NHS England said: “‘We are working closely with the Priory Group and staff at the Banksy Ward as they prepare to close due to recruitment challenges.
“Our first consideration is the small number of young people residing within the unit all have a plan in place to move to alternative care plans close to their families in the next few weeks.
“Staff who work on the Banksy unit will be offered redeployment opportunities locally by their employer.”
It said it was working with healthcare providers across the region to put additional alternative plans in place in the coming months.
The Priory said staffing was a national problem, the ward was always adequately staffed and its most recent CQC rating was good.