BUILDERS have been ordered to ignore patients with learning difficulties living in a hospital next to a large development of family homes.

The Harrow Times has learned that workers have been told not to talk to patients at Kingsbury Community Hospital.

The measure was included in a contract which it is understood builders had to sign before starting work.

However, no restrictions have been placed on interaction between patients and those who are to live in the houses being developed by Laing Homes.

The contract has angered a disability rights campaign group which called it discriminatory.

The housing development in Honeypot Lane, Kingsbury will create 126 new homes for private and social housing. The other half of the site will be retained by the hospital for four residential units for its patients.

"This is the standard norm for any contract of this kind and is for the safety of the workers and the patients," said Michelle Everton, spokeswoman for construction company Galliford Hodgson Ltd. She later retracted this statement.

However, Marc Thackham, chief executive at Harrow Association of Disabled People, condemned the portrayal of patients.

He said: "I am worried that this is standard practice as it is good practice to involve the community.

"I can understand why the employer would want to have this stated in the contract, yet after the work is done these patients will be interacting in the community anyway.

"If it is standard practice then it is something against all disabled people. If building work was being done around a shopping area, the builders would not be told to sign an agreement to state that they could not interact with the shopkeepers."

The hospital, managed by Parkside Health Trust, admitted the contract was normal procedure.

A spokesman said: "The form signed by the contractors for the development of Kingsbury Community Hospital is part of the usual procedure to protect against allegation."

Ruling out any risk posed to public safety by the development, he added: "As part of an ongoing programme, Parkside conducts a full risk assessment at all of its sites.

"It is not foreseen that there will be any potential risks to residents of the new units."