A UNIT that provides rehabilitation for patients with complex mental health needs at Carlisle's Carleton Clinic is set to close.

The Acorn Unit is a 16-bed rehabilitation ward for men only.

Women who need inpatient rehabilitation support must instead travel out of the county.

However, with north Cumbria's health services set to be taken over by a leading north east trust, the future of the Acorn Unit has been reviewed.

As a result, more rehabilitation will be provided in the community, in line with mental health pathways provided by Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW).

However those with the highest levels of need will be transferred to NTW's existing specialist units - in Morpeth or Sunderland.

This will include female patients, who are currently sent wherever a place is available.

Bosses say at present there are patients with different levels of need being cared for on Acorn, which is not appropriate. Instead they will go to a unit that best meets their individual needs, or be supported in the community.

It is understood that the closure will affect about 20 staff, who will be redeployed - either into community services or other local mental health units.

Mental health services in the county are currently provided by the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT).

However, from October, those in north and west Cumbria will transfer to NTW - a Newcastle-based mental health trust with an 'outstanding' rating.

Bosses say the takeover will improve the quality of care. As part of this, a review of rehabilitation services has identified that changes are needed to align them with those in the north east and best practice guidelines.

The Acorn Unit will therefore close to admissions and those currently receiving care will move onto the new pathway by the end of October 2019.

Gary O'Hare, executive director of mental health at CPFT, insisted the changes are not about saving money or cutting care.

He said they plan to invest more money in local mental health care and reduce the number of patients treated out of the area.

"We are going to redesign the whole pathway and ensure patients get better care more suited to their needs," he explained.

"We want patients here to have the same quality of services, so it isn't a postcode lottery."