Those leading controversial changes to Cumbria's NHS are being accused of seeing community hospital beds as a "cash cow" to prop up the debt-stricken Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals.

Governors of a leading Cumbrian health trust have threatened to withhold their approval of the Success Regime's masterplan if they continue to push ahead with bed closure plans.

The Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), which runs community and mental health services, is among the organisations involved in the Success Regime - a body set up by the Government to tackle deep-rooted problems in the north Cumbrian NHS.

But its own Governors' Council has written an open letter to Sir Neil McKay, regime chairman, accusing it of lacking logic, transparency, financial evidence and vital detail.

The letter, signed by eight governors who are appointed to represent staff and the wider public, ultimately threatens to withhold their approval to prevent major changes going ahead.

It states: "Our problem is that on every significant issue, the Success Regime appears to us to be shrouded in impenetrable fog."

One of the options put forward by the Success Regime is to close some or all of the area's cottage hospital beds, instead providing more care in people's own homes. Yet the CPFT has relatively small debts compared to more than £60m within the acute hospitals trust.

The governors say there is no analysis as to how and why the overspend has occurred. 

They add: "Governors fear the regime sees key services in CPFT (ie. closing community hospital beds) as a cash cow to solve problems in the acute system."

When it comes to the balance between reducing the deficit and improving quality, governors say there is "almost total lack of transparency". 

They also accuse the regime of "lacking any obvious logic" when it comes to the case for closing community beds - saying in the long term the need for community beds will actually increase.

The letter adds that the Success Regime's vision is: "woefully lacking in sensitivity to the health-related implications of geography and demography in Cumbria."

A CPFT spokeswoman said: “Governors are completely independent from the trust and are free to express the views they feel represents the best interest of our members.”

The Success Regime is currently inviting feedback from individuals and groups before setting out more formal plans. 

A spokesman said they are due to meet with four of the governors next week. He added: "We acknowledge the letter and are going to include this as a formal response to our engagement process."