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Ambitious £40m plan to improve service user facilities in Norfolk and Waveney

​The Norfolk and Waveney Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has revealed an ambitious £40m plan to improve mental health facilities in the county.

The STP, with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) leading the bid, has applied to the Department of Health (DoH) for funding to replace three adult acute mental health wards at Hellesdon Hospital (comprising 49 beds). The bid includes a maximum of four 20-bed wards with the fourth ward being considered when the design and planning for the unit is underway.

The £40m development will pave the way for a new model of care based on three tiers – assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation and recovery – which will result in better outcomes and help to reduce the length of time that service users have to spend in hospital. The reduced lengths of stay will also contribute to reduced waiting times and eliminating out of area placements.

The state-of-the-art unit will allow for other improved facilities, such as a physical health clinic; large external courtyards; and dedicated therapy areas, including activity and group rooms, occupational therapy type workshops and a gym.

If the submitted outline bid is accepted by the DoH at this early stage, the STP can develop the proposals in more detail. At that stage, there would be extensive work with service users and carers, mental health staff, Governors, and colleagues in the third sector and in primary care, to develop plans for the modern and developed services and facilities on site.

These co-produced proposals would then be reviewed by NHS Improvement (NHSI) and require final approval from the DoH later this year. If given the go-ahead, the building work could begin late next year and be completed by summer 2021.

Julie Cave, NSFT's Managing Director and a member of the STPs Mental Health Forum, said: "The STP regards this scheme as one of its top priorities and it gives us an opportunity to replace outdated wards and outpatient clinics with state-of-the-art facilities.

"In order to deliver a modern and safe mental health service for local people, it is essential that we continue to invest in improving facilities for our service users. 

"This scheme would see the replacement of three wards – Glaven, Thurne and Waveney wards – which are 30 years old and have many rooms which are not up to the standards we believe our service users deserve.

"There are multiple ligature risks, and they are laid out in a way which makes it difficult to safely observe patients, have narrow poorly lit corridors and lack a quiet space. Many are without en suite facilities and some have small rooms."

Julie explained that the outline bid did allow for a potential increase in bed capacity: "A review of mental health services and bed numbers in Norfolk and Waveney, led by the STP, is underway and this will help us determine precisely the number of beds we will require in the near future.

"These plans will, at the very least, enable us to future-proof inpatient services in the longer term, should we continue to see demand increase and if a need for more beds is identified and their staffing funded," she said.

She explained that as well as benefits to service users, carers and staff, real savings could be made with a modern unit, with reduced running costs, and it would open up the opportunity to develop services such as a new rehabilitation service, similar to that run by NSFT in Suffolk.

The STP bid application for £38m was submitted to the Wave 4 STP Capital Fund on 16 July. The remaining £2m will be provided by NSFT from the proceeds of selling a piece of existing disused land at Hellesdon Hospital *. The STP is expected to learn the outcome of its application for funding in November.

The new development, which would be built on disused meadowland below the existing 'lower plateau' area of the hospital site, will be the first phase of the planned redevelopment of Hellesdon.

Once Phase 1 is completed, corporate support services based on the top part of the site would move to the lower plateau, freeing up 10-hectares of underused land on the 'upper plateau', which would be sold for housing development.

Julie said: "The money from this would be reinvested into NSFT's capital funds to continue to improve quality and safety. Early discussions around these plans have been held with Broadland District Council, which would be asked to grant planning permission, and it fits in with local housing needs.

"Phase 2 will also provide opportunities to develop mental health training facilities for other organisations, such as the police, social services staff, ambulance staff, and housing associations, leading to better integration of services and improved co-ordination around discharge planning and aftercare.

"And it could include a wellbeing hub, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) services and primary care facilities, a café and a shop."

On Thursday, the NSFT Board will be asked to approve the strategic outline case (SOC) for the plan on its site.

*The disused piece of land which could be sold is a disused football pitch on the upper plateau to the far right-hand site of the hospital site.

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