THE Haleacre Unit in Amersham, which provides in-patient care for mentally ill people, could close and in-patients be sent to a hospital in Aylesbury, which would take mentally ill people from all over the county.

This could be at the existing Tindal Unit or at a new mental hospital which could be built at Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Buckinghamshire Mental Health Trust, which runs mental health services, is in the red and cannot get the staff it needs. The trust owns lots of scattered properties and is reviewing all its estate.

Building a new mental hospital at Stoke Mandeville could be a good idea, according to Aylesbury MP David Lidington.

But others do not agree, saying that to have one hospital for the whole county is reverting to the old days, when all patients were placed in St John's mental hospital in Stone. This closed more than a decade ago.

A spokesman for the trust told the Free Press that any ideas were at a very early stage.

But on Friday, when the members of the health scrutiny committee of Buckinghamshire County Council met, Julia Wassell, an experienced mental health professional, and county and Wycombe district councillor, said it appeared people had virtually signed up to the closure of Haleacre.

"I think south Bucks needs its own in-patient mental health unit," she said.

Even Haleacre was not ideal, she added, because any hospital should ideally be in High Wycombe, which is the area of greatest need.

Mr Lidington said there were three options; closing Haleacre, closing Tindal and closing both and building a new hospital.

"Clearly there is a strong case for it to be at Aylesbury, because there are more clients there than at Amersham, and there is no room for a new hospital at Wycombe," he said.