MENTAL health services will be the first to go in an exodus of wards from Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot.

The mental health inpatient ward (Ward 12) at the hospital is to be transferred to Prospect Park Hospital in Reading, because its accommodation is "not fit to meet the mental health needs of patients in the 21st century", health bosses say.

Patients at Heatherwood are still accommodated in dormitory-style wards, compared to single rooms with ensuite facilities at Prospect Park, where all east Berkshire mental health in-patients will be treated from this autumn.

A new community-based service is due to start in May, to be in situ before the ward transfers. All mental health staff based at Heatherwood will move to Prospect Park.

Moving all patients into one place would mean better access to a greater range of therapies and specialists, the trust said. As part of unrelated decisions, taken last month by the now defunct NHS Berkshire primary care trust, Heatherwood will also lose its rehabilitation ward in December this year and its minor injuries unit in January. The latter would move to Bracknell. NHS bosses also agreed the midwife-led matenity unit should be permanently closed.