CARLISLE’S closure-threatened Acorn mental health ward could be replaced with a new rehabilitation unit in future if needed, bosses say.

Although there are no immediate plans in place, they say all options are on the table as they set about redesigning rehabilitation services.

The Acorn Unit - a 16-bed ward for men only at the Carleton Clinic - provides rehabilitation for patients with complex mental health needs.

However women who need inpatient support must already travel out of the county.

The Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has announced plans to close Acorn Unit as it looks to bring north Cumbria’s mental health services into line with those in the north east - ahead of them being taken over by Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) in October.

Bosses say at present, patients with different levels of need are being cared for at Acorn, which is not good practice. Instead they want to support more patients in the community and send those who need inpatient care - male and female - to NTW’s specialist units, situated in Morpeth and Sunderland.

Gary O’Hare, executive director of mental health at the Cumbria Partnership (CPFT), said this will ensure all patients get the care that meets their individual needs.

It is estimated that eight patients at any one time will be in these units.

When asked whether it would make geographical sense to have inpatient units in or nearer to Cumbria, Mr O’Hare said it would be something they look at for future as part of the review.

“Try not to see it as a closure. We are redesigning the rehabilitation pathway, asking what does that pathway need. We might need a facility here but it needs to be different from what we’ve currently got,” he explained.

“People are going to get better care, more suited to their needs.”

There are currently eight patients on Acorn, who will move onto the new pathway by the end of October.

Bosses say the takeover of mental health services by NTW - an ‘outstanding’ trust based in Newcastle - will bring improvements in care.

Mr O’Hare said they are planning to invest more more in local services and reduce the overall numbers being sent out of county.

He said improved bed management systems are already helping, while they have also been working with commissioners to secure extra funding for crisis resolution, home treatment and other services.

About 20 staff are affected by the closure of Acorn Unit, but Mr O’Hare stressed that there would be no redundancies and it was not about cost-cutting. Instead staff will be redeployed, either into community rehabilitation services or other local units.