The workforce providing vital NHS mental health care services in Epsom and Ewell will be slashed by half.

Fifteen out of 30 community support roles in Epsom and Ewell will go as part of a radical shake-up, which will see Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS trust target services for those with the most severe or complex illnesses.

This is in addition to 30 posts already vacant across Surrey. It is part of a wider plan to save the trust £1.5m.

The changes will also affect patients in Banstead – who will no longer be covered by the catchment area – and in Mole Valley where reductions will see five staff from 20 lose their jobs.

Services will be provided by an independent organisation called New Thoughts, based in Reigate.

Sue Bond, who manages the Crescent mental health charity in Leatherhead, said the cuts in frontline staff could lead to more pressure on both carers and GPs.

She said: “If you keep cutting services you will nibble away at the support people receive. I think it will affect everyone who works at the frontline of the industry. That means more responsibility will be placed on the shoulders of families and GPs.”

Community mental health teams operate by providing specialist support to patients – from prescribing anti-depressants to building up personal relationships with their patients.

Sophie Corlett, director of external relations at the mental health charity Mind said the cuts would have a “detrimental effect on care”.

She said: “We cannot risk under-investing in mental health and reducing staff at a time of financial hardship when more people than ever will be experiencing increased levels of mental distress.”

Jo Young, director of operations at Surrey and Borders NHS Foundation Trust said: “We want to retain skills and expertise and give our staff the best chance of finding work elsewhere in the trust.

“That is why we started a recruitment freeze last summer and there are now nine vacant posts in these two teams.

“We also have 21 vacant posts available in other community mental health teams and have identified many other potential re-deployment opportunities in other services.”