Health bosses have now earmarked a specific site in Stevenage for a new £64m mental health unit – and intend to submit a bid to NHS England within weeks.

Currently the Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) operates 98 in-patient beds, but the beds are not spread evenly across the county and sometimes patients are sent out of the county because there are not enough

The trust has been developing plans for a 54-bed unit – that would replace existing provision at the Lister Hospital and Albany Lodge, in St Albans.

On Wednesday, July 21 members of Hertfordshire’s Heath Scrutiny Committee heard that the trust had now found a specific site for the unit – just off junction 8 of the M1, in Stevenage, off Graveley Road. The trust hopes to submit an outline business case to NHS England in September.

HPFT deputy CEO Karen Taylor said the unit would provide a ‘state of the art’ environment for service users and, taking into account the closures of existing facilities at the Lister and Albany Lodge, would increase the overall number of in-patient beds in the county by 10.

“What this development will do is to bring some significant quality service improvements and experience for our service users across east and north Herts but also back into west Herts as well,” said Ms Taylor.

There is currently an imbalance of provision with the county, with Albany Lodge and Kingfisher Court in Radlett providing a total of 78 beds in the west – but with just 20 beds in the east, at the Lister.

Cllr Roma Mills, a member of St Albans District Council, said she welcomed the proposed additional beds – pointing to the distance people could be sent out of the county.

She said: "If that is avoiding people going as far as Weston-super-Mare, which I know they have on occasions, that is extremely welcome.

“I continue to be concerned about the distances people will have to travel."

Ms Taylor acknowledged that they were looking to step up their commitment to community provision, and highlighted ongoing conversations with trusts to secure beds around the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

She also suggested that should the facility need to expand the site would be big enough for future expansion.