A GROUNDBREAKING Hampshire clinic that was opened just six months ago to help scores of people who are suffering from a disease caused by tick bites is set to close this month.

The New Forest is a particular hotspot for Lyme disease, a bacterial infection contracted from infected ticks, which can cause blindness, paralysis and meningitis in serious cases, as ticks thrive in wooded areas and on animals, like deer, pheasants and mice.

The Lyme Disease clinic, headed by consultant microbiologist Dr Matthew Dryden, was set up at Winchester’s Royal Hampshire County Hospital and has helped 120 people who have contracted the disease.

The clinic was funded as a pilot by the Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, but the trust has been unable to agree permanent funding with Public Health England.

Dr Dryden said: “The clinic is closing. Not because funding has been pulled; there never was any funding. The local trust should be congratulated for hosting it.

“There has been a massive demand and a huge national need and it is a huge disappointment that the powers that be have not reached an agreement. I was seeing people from across the UK.”

Dr Dryden said that the clinic may restart but almost certainly not in Winchester.

He said: “Lyme disease is becoming more common. The south is becoming more crowded, with lots of housing close to rural areas. Conservation is getting better and the amount of wildlife coming into proximity with people is growing.”

Lyme disease, or borrelia burgdorferi, most commonly affects the skin, joints, the heart and the nervous system. It is generally treated with antibiotics but patients say the symptoms can continue after treatment.