£13m youngsters’ mental health unit approved for North Wales

Health Minister Edwina Hart has given her approval to plans for a new mental health unit for children and young people in North Wales.

The £13.7m unit will be built at Abergele Hospital and will provide 24-hour seven-day care and treatment for youngsters experiencing a range of mental health conditions.

“These new facilities will greatly improve the specialist care on offer locally to children and young people experiencing mental health problems,” the Minister said.

“I am determined to further improve mental health services and to raise their profile within the Welsh NHS – for too long, mental health has been a Cinderella service.”

The Abergele unit, which will provide a 24-hour service seven days a week, will have a 14-bed planned treatment ward and a five-bed emergency/high-dependency ward.

An NHS spokesman said the unit is designed to treat:

• Severe eating disorders
• Severe affective disorders
• Severe anxiety and emotional disorders
• Psychotic disorders
• Other mental illness where physical, social and family variable operate to inhibit process.

Work will begin on the unit later this year and it is expected to open in August 2009. In the meantime, the current facilities at Cedar Court in Colwyn Bay will be expanded from a five-day inpatient service to a seven-day service.

Dr Clare Lamb, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist with North Wales Adolescent Service at Conwy and Denbighshire NHS Trust, said: “This is a very exciting development which will significantly improve the services available to young people in North Wales.

“The North Wales Adolescent Service provides intensive treatment and care for children and adolescents from across North Wales with complex and severe mental health problems.

“At the moment, our inpatient unit is in a house in a residential street. We are only open five days a week, the building lacks space and it is not suitable to care for the most unwell young people.

“The result is that many children have to be treated in hospitals far from home in England, making it hard for family and friends to stay in touch.

“Others are treated on the children’s general medical or adult psychiatric wards across North Wales, where it is not possible for them to get the treatments they need.

“So this new unit will have a major positive impact – it will be open seven days a week, in a new building designed specifically for our young patents, many of whom have helped in the planning process.

“There will be an on-site school and plenty of safe garden and recreational space. Our most unwell young people will be treated here in North Wales, close to family, school and friends. Children whose first language is Welsh will have access to Welsh speaking clinicians and teachers – all these factors are important for recovery.

“We are looking forward to developing a centre of excellence that meets the mental health needs of our young people here in North Wales.”

The Health Minister’s green light of the Abergele unit comes just weeks after her announcement that a £22m child and adolescent mental health unit in Bridgend to serve South, Mid and West Wales will also go ahead.