Teen mental health unit to open in Plymouth

A CONTROVERSIAL £4million residential care unit for teenagers with mental health problems looks set to open by the end of next year.

Detailed plans for the unit, which will be based at the Plymouth International Medical and Technology Park in Derriford, have now been submitted to the city council for approval, along with artist’s impressions.

If the plans by Plymouth Primary Care Trust are backed, work could start before Christmas this year with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Unit being open within a year.

Despite receiving 81 letters of objection to the scheme, the council granted outline planning permission on the site, next to the Land Registry, in May last year.

In a new report submitted to the planning department the applicant, Sutton Harbour- based ReSound Health, says residents close to the site will benefit from it being developed and permanently occupied.

“Derelict sites are unappealing and can allow easy and unwanted access to private property if insufficient barriers exist,” the report states, adding that during the night the unit will be locked to prevent intruders and keep young people safe.

There will also be ‘four levels’ of observation in force depending on the mental state of the patient.

However, Julian Mildren, a nearby resident and chairman of a focus group set up to look at the scheme, said some residents were still ‘very against’ the plans.

“We welcome having the plans out in the open for us to discuss in a mature and adult way,” he said. “We’ve been waiting to have a look at them. Residents I have spoken to are taking the view that this scheme will happen whatever we do. At least they’re consulting with us.”

However, he added: “Some people are still very against it.”

Adrian Griffin, general manager of ReSound Health, said: “We’re now full steam ahead on the design issues. Our best estimate is that we’ll sign all the contracts in the beginning of October so we can start work before Christmas, subject to all the necessary approvals.”

Mr Griffin said the construction was expected to take 52 weeks to complete, but the developer was trying to reduce this to 45 weeks.

He also admitted the scheme had been hit by the recession but insisted quality had not been compromised.

“We’re still trying to drive costs down because the credit crunch has had a detrimental effect on financing schemes like this,” he said.

“It’s been hard work managing to keep costs frozen to the level they were set at last year.

“We have succeeded, but it’s down to careful work. There’s been no compromise on quality.”

The proposed care unit is partly single-storey and partly two-storey and will cater for the in-patient treatment of 12- to 18-year-olds with mental illness or disorder.

It would cover an area of 1,500sq m on a 0.83-hectare site with the building’s size being roughly 67 metres by 60 metres.

The planned entrance to the building is adjacent to a nursery school. It is planned that a public area, including a 27-space car park, will become a ‘buffer zone’ between the clinical areas, the site’s gardens and the nursery.

The service in Plymouth would be run 24 hours a day for patients from across the South West and provide 12 to 15 beds. The young people using the service would require seven-day- a-week admissions and include those admitted under the Mental Health Act 1983.

The unit has been designed to receive individuals referred with a variety of conditions such as depression, eating disorders, psychoses or post-traumatic stress disorder. It would be staffed by up to 38 personnel including nurses, psychiatrists, therapists and teachers.

ReSound Health is a public/private partnership set up under the Government’s LIFT initiative to develop facilities for primary and community-based health and social care facilities in the Plymouth area.

Its previous schemes have included Cattedown Primary Care Centre.