Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has contracted Lindum Construction to carry out the £400,000 project to reutilise the redundant Ash Villa unit in Greylees near Sleaford, from September 28.
The scheme will see the creation of a 15-bed acute treatment ward for women who are experiencing a severe, short term episode of mental ill health and who cannot be safely supported by community based services.
This will complement existing adult acute mental health wards in Boston and Lincoln, where patients will receive their initial assessment. Following a thorough initial assessment of people’s needs at these other two units, where it is appropriate, female patients can then be transferred to the treatment ward at Ash Villa to receive their on-going support before discharge.
It forms part of the Trust’s ongoing response to coronavirus and plans to cut the number of patients having to travel outside of Lincolnshire for hospital care.
LPFT Director of Operations, Chris Higgins, said: “The NHS has been in an unprecedented position over the last few months responding to the national coronavirus pandemic. This has had significant and long lasting impact on how the NHS and the Trust develop and deliver services now and in the future.
“We have wanted to eliminate the number of patients travelling for acute care for some time and coronavirus has magnified this challenge. Over the last two years we have had more females admitted to acute inpatient services than males and these additional beds will allow us flexibility across our entire adult acute inpatient services.”
Andy Rix, Chief Operating Officer for NHS Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group added: “The Lincolnshire health and care system is committed to eliminating the inappropriate use of out of area hospital care for mental health patients by the end of March 2021, by improving access to local mental health and learning disability services for the people of Lincolnshire.
“We have been working with LPFT and other partners for some time on ambitious plans to improve inpatient accommodation and increase the types of mental health services offered in the county, and coronavirus has magnified this challenge.
“We know there is likely to be increasing demand for mental health services following the coronavirus pandemic, so we have worked quickly to agree additional ward capacity to support those with acute mental health needs as close to home as possible.”
Ash Villa temporarily closed as a specialist residential care unit for up to 13 young people aged 13 to 18 in October last year due to staff shortages. This was made permanent this spring.
According to Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the unit was regularly only half full due to the success of its community mental health services and the shift to a new system of home support in the community. The in-patient unit would also not meet some of the new standards required by NHS England. This led Lincolnshire County Council closing the adjoining Ash Villa School in July, as there would be no more children at the unit to teach.
Lindum director Richard Shaw said: “We will be adapting and refurbishing the existing layout to provide 15 beds for an adult clinical service. The works will involve anti-ligature and anti-vandal elements.
“We are a local construction company and we will be using many of our own employees on this contract. We will also work with local contractors and suppliers where we can.”
LPFT used the Pagabo Medium Works Framework to procure the work. The framework enables all public sector organisations to access a pool of pre-approved construction companies which have excelled in service, price and their positive impact to social value and potentially removes weeks of complicated work for clients.
Recruitment for a new ward team has already begun, with the plans of having the ward operational by the end of the year.
Work is also continuing with commissioners and other key stakeholders on the £7million transformation of community mental health services which Lincolnshire received funding for last year.
Qualified health professionals who are interested in working in female acute mental health services can find current vacancies on www.lpft.nhs.uk/work-for-us
Chris Higgins added: “There has never been a more exciting time to work in mental health and learning disability services and with us as an organisation. We are a national award winning organisation and have recently received significant investment in local services.”