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

PUBLISHED: 14:19 14 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:24 14 September 2020

Plans for dozens of new mental health beds at one of the regions hospitals are set to be approved - despite neighbours fears about disturbances and security risks. Photo: Bill Smith

Plans for dozens of new mental health beds at one of the regions hospitals are set to be approved - despite neighbours fears about disturbances and security risks. Photo: Bill Smith

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Plans for dozens of new mental health beds at one of the region’s hospitals are set to be approved - despite neighbours’ fears about disturbances and security risks.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has submitted plans to Broadland District Council to build five new ward buildings at Hellesdon Hospital, in Norwich.

And the council, which is set to discuss the application - for five new 16-bed wards - at its planning committee meeting on Wednesday, September 16, has recommended the plans go ahead.

A report produced ahead of the meeting stated: “The total number of beds will increase by 15 from 65 to 80 with patients being decanted from existing substandard ward buildings into the new wards.

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

“As a result of this development, 33 additional members of full-time staff will be employed.”

But residents living close to the site have raised concerns about “problematic” noise levels and the security risk of the site.

One person living on Wensum Valley Close highlighted issues with “abusive language, distress and audible screaming” and said: “I feel aggrieved a letter was not distributed to all residents and see this as somewhat devious.”

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Another resident said: “Mental hospitals care for people with a wide range of mental illness - they are usually situated away from domestic housing for good reason.

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

“Patients can present as a danger to themselves and others. We also have to keep vigilant to deal with patients who have absconded from the hospital as often occurs and patients do walk onto our estate seeking access to the river. These wards treat acutely unwell patients and require secure units.

They questioned why the plans used the term “non-secure” and added: “ I therefore submit that the application is misleading.”

While a neighbour asked: “Why can’t you use the buildings that are already there? We already hear a lot of noise and distress.”

But Glen Beaumont, planning officer, said noise was “in the first instance, a matter for staff on the wards to manage” and said: “I am not persuaded [these incidents] have a sufficiently detrimental impact to warrant refusal.”

He added: “From a healthcare perspective, an acute inpatient facility is a non-secure facility. This is distinct from a psychiatric intensive care unit or forensic unit which are secure facilities.”

But he said there would be a “level of security” provided in the designs for the new wards.

READ MORE: ‘Slid to the bottom of the pile’ - patient’s anger at remote mental health services during lockdown


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