Five new mental health wards agreed - despite local objections

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hellesdon Hospital. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

Plans for a £40m overhaul of one of the county’s largest mental health hospitals have been agreed in the hope it will help to end the current “dependence on out of area beds”.

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Coun

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services. Pic: Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Norfolk County Council

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) submitted plans to Broadland Council to build five new wards at Hellesdon Hospital.

And despite fears over security and disturbances, the first stage of the project has been agreed.

During a planning committee, meeting on Wednesday, September 16, planning officer Matthew Rook told councillors the scheme was at the initial stage - meaning design and layout would be agreed later.

The plans, for five 16-bed non-secure wards, would increase the site from 65 to 80 beds.

READ MORE: Mental health facility set for £40m overhaul as plans for new wards lodged

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And he said the site was outside the settlement limit for Hellesdon but development was permitted.

Peter Burton, project director, said: “The NSFT submitted a bid to the NHS for a Hellesdon ward rebuild in July 2018, which was approved in August 2019.”

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He said the current site had “narrow and poorly lit corridors”, a “lack of quiet space” and “poor access to outside spaces”, which resulted in “negative feedback”.

He added: “A further driver for the application is the capacity of the whole service and its current dependence on out of area beds and private sector placements.

“The 15 extra beds will have a significant impact on capacity to treat people in a local hospital.”

Mr Burton said the new wards would be a “new and modern therapeutic environment” while “integrated design of wards will make it easier for staff to work together to support recovery”.

READ MORE: Outcry over new mental health wards plan due to noise and security fears

Conservative councillor Ken Leggett said: “I know this area very well and I do understand the points made by residents. Low Road is a dangerous road if any patients were to wander down.”

Mr Rook said “fencing would be necessary to provide a more secure boundary” which would be agreed in the next application.

While Conservative councillor John Fisher added: “There is a need to expand units and not send patients out of county - both for expense, convenience and visiting.

“The objectors actually say they have no objection to the expansion of healthcare facilities - so I’m not quite sure why they’re objecting.”

And committee chairman Sue Lawn said: “This is something which is so essential in Norfolk.”

The committee unanimously voted in favour of the application.

READ MORE: Mental health trust blasted for ‘shocking’ fresh rise in out of area placements

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