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Work to start on state-of-the-art mental health unit for young people

Work is set to start on creating a state-of-the-art inpatient unit for young people with acute mental health needs thanks to an investment of nearly £1m from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT).

The 12-bedded unit will be constructed at Carlton Court, in Lowestoft, and will allow the Trust to provide specialist care to more patients – including boys for the very first time – closer to home, in turn reducing the number who need to travel out of the area for treatment. It will replace the seven-bedded unit currently in use at Airey Close, in Lothingland, which is dated and does not meet single sex legislation, meaning it can only care for girls.

The change comes following an extensive public consultation which was carried out by NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and designed to improve mental health services locally.

It recommended that Carlton Court should be reconfigured into a centre of excellence for 12 to 18-year-olds with complex mental health needs – a proposal which was supported by young people themselves and NSFT which leads the plans and which manages the unit.

As well as creating 12 individual en-suite bedrooms, the project will see three school rooms added to the building and a fully equipped therapy suite, which will include a two-way mirror for family therapy and gym to boost young people’s recovery.

A kitchen will be available so that patients can learn how to cook their own food, while a separate dining room will be available when necessary for people with eating disorders. Extra staff will also be recruited to care for the increased number of patients.

Airey Close is currently the only young person’s general admission ward in Norfolk and Suffolk, and has seen increases in demand every year since it opened in October 2012, which has led to some people receiving care outside of the local area. It is hoped the number of young people being placed out of area will be reduced if NHS England, which commissions the service, agrees to fund the additional five beds which are being created at Carlton Court.

Andy Goff, Development and Improvement Manager for Norfolk and Waveney with NSFT, said: “This investment will make a huge difference to young people in Norfolk and Suffolk with complex mental health needs. It will mean that more people than ever – and both boys and girls – will be able to access the specialist help and support they need closer to home, without the need to travel outside the local area which can be stressful for both the patient and their family.

“The centre of excellence at Carlton Court will be a state-of-the-art facility, fully compliant with the very highest quality standards to ensure safety, privacy and dignity. The new base will also allow us to expand the services we already provide, and will include three new school rooms and a gym, which will be especially important for helping young people with eating disorders to manage their exercise levels.

“We are absolutely delighted to be carrying through the promises we made during the consultation and investing this significant sum in creating the high quality services which our young people deserve. We look forward to opening the unit in the summer.”

The new unit will offer services to young people in crisis who cannot be supported in the community, and will care for patients with any condition, including depression, anxiety, psychosis, eating disorders and self-harm.

Work is due to start within the next few weeks and will be completed by the summer by a Suffolk building firm, in turn supporting the local economy. It has been made possible after the adult acute beds previously at Carlton Court were moved to Northgate Hospital, in Great Yarmouth, following the CCG consultation, improving care by bringing all adult acute services into one place.

Andy Evans, Chief Executive of NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, said: “We are delighted that work is about to begin on this vital centre of excellence where young people with complex mental health needs will be able to receive the specialist care they need.

“The new unit will enable NSFT’s clinicians to deliver the highest quality services in state-of-the-art surroundings, as well as increasing capacity. This is great news for young people and their families from across Great Yarmouth and Waveney, as it means they will be able to access help closer to home and without the need to travel.” ​