AMERSHAM'S Haleacre unit looks set for the chop after health bosses have agreed to close its inpatient ward - which was branded "unfit for purpose".

Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (OBMH) has taken the decision, which will see Frith ward close and most of its services relocated to the Tindal Centre in Aylesbury.

The future of Haleacre's intensive care ward, Kimble, also looks in doubt after a report said its beds were operating under capacity and a new ward in Oxford would be able to provide the service across both counties.

These mental health service changes come after a consultation in 2005 that recommended all inpatient services in Bucks be moved to a single site in Aylesbury. The eventual plan is to have a new mental health centre in Manor House, Aylesbury.

The OBMH board said at its meeting on Wednesday that the environment of Frith wasn't fit for purpose and would need a further £1.1million spent on it to bring the building up to scratch.

David Bradley, chief operating officer, said: "We spent £850,000 on Frith and the wards at Tindal to improve and get rid of ligature points (removing fixtures and fittings where patients can harm themselves) but that work showed us that we would still need another £1.1million to be spent on Frith to get rid of ligature points and get the environment ready for serving mental health."

He added: "The proposal is not about saving money, it is about improving the environment for service users and reducing the risks for people on those wards."

It is thought the changes, and transfer of patients from the Frith Centre, will take place at the end of July.

Julie Waldron, chief executive, said the Healthcare Commission had acknowledged improvements at Frith following a recent visit - but insisted it still wasn't good enough.

She said: "There is nothing now that they are unsatisfied with - they don't think they need to do special monitoring.

"But they do say that despite the work we have done, the ligature points on Frith need to be dealt with in one way or another."

The board approved a recommendation to close Frith, which will see an increase of beds at Kimmeridge and Portland wards at the Tindal Centre.

A review was also approved to look into the provision of psychiatric intensive care, which will see the future of Kimble ward come under scrutiny.

Mr Bradley said: "We do need to decide if we leave it at Haleacre, how we will manage that."

A board report said a new £2million ward at Littlemore Hospital in Oxford was opening in August and would be able to provide "sufficient capacity for both counties". It said Kimble could be closed for this reason.