THE in patient ward at the Tyrrell Hospital in Ilfracombe could be closed for up to three months because of a faulty lift. Northern Devon Healthcare Trust announced the temporary closure today (Thursday) and said the four patients currently in the hospital would be transferred to South Molton. The Minor Injury Unit, x-ray and outpatient departments at Ilfracombe will remain open as usual. The closure takes effect from tomorrow (Friday) is due to safety concerns over the lift, after three members of staff and one patient became stuck in it during the past three weeks. Kate Lyons, trust director of operations, said decisions such as this were not taken lightly but the safety of patients was their number one priority. Many of our patients and their relatives are elderly, so the lift is important for ease of access, as well as for the ambulance service for admissions and discharges, she said. A number of attempts were made to rectify the problem but after these failed, a full risk assessment was carried out. Our experts were not confident in the lifts reliability, so we had to make this decision in the best interests of all concerned. We apologise for any disruption this temporary closure to in-patients may cause. The trust plans to upgrade the lift control system rather than repair the existing one. The alarm system will also be reviewed. It said a new control system will be designed and installed as soon as possible, early estimates suggest this may take up to 12 weeks. Mrs Lyons added: We will do all we can to get the lift up and running as soon as we can, and once this is done we will be able to reopen the inpatient ward at Tyrrell.