Plan to build £80m mental hospital for city is shelved
PLANS to replace one of Wales’ oldest mental asylums with a new £80m hospital have been put aside in the face of declining admission rates.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is re-examining a 10-year-old strategy, which made the case for a state-of-the-art replacement for Whitchurch Hospital, a huge former asylum in the north of Cardiff.
The new 87-bed hospital, which would replace the red-brick Victorian building, was scheduled to be completed in 2012.
The extensive site could be redeveloped as an integrated health park – similar to the plans for Merthyr Tydfil – which combines a range of health and social services.
Jan Williams and David Francis, chief executive and chairman of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said, in a joint statement: “The model of care outlined in the original service proposals was developed a number of years ago and warrants serious review before we progress with our plans.
“We need to be certain that the significant investment we will be making in mental health will result in services which can meet the needs of patients, not just in the short term but for the next 30 years.”
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has said it will fast-track improvements to community-based mental health services while it asks the public about the future of the Whitchurch site.
And it will continue with a rolling programme of refurbishing Whitchurch’s wards.
The development of an older person’s mental health assessment unit at Llandough Hospital – which was devised at the same time as the Whitchurch replacement – will also continue.
Mrs Williams said: “We are going to look again at the current business case because clinicians are very strong on the fact that we need to develop primary and community mental health services.
“These days you would only expect to come into an inpatient facility for a short period of a mental health episode and have as much care as possible in the community.”
Paul Hollard, the health board’s director of planning, added: “We know that hospital wards for acute mental health inpatient care are not the best environment, unless you are very unwell.”
It is understood the £80m of Welsh capital funding earmarked for a new Whitchurch hospital will remain available for mental health services in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan.
Some £6m of Assembly Government cash has already been spent on enabling works, including road works and demolishing buildings.
It is understood the board could also consider repatriating some patients who are being treated in England.
Whitchurch Hospital, which was founded in 1904 and opened in 1908, is one of only a few century-old asylums still in use today.
It is likely that any future plans for the site will focus on providing a range of primary health and social care services and not an inpatient mental health facility.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board has pledged to consult widely about the future of Whitchurch Hospital.
Mrs Williams added: “We see the current Whitchurch site as being a key plank in the board’s plans to develop comprehensive community-based health and social care services that meet the needs of people of north Cardiff.
“This is not about cost saving. The board would not and could not divert mental health money for another purpose.”
Cardiff North MP Julie Morgan said: “I understand that at this stage no decisions have been taken and it is imperative that urgent consultation is undertaken with patients, patient groups, professionals, and the community.
She added that changes to plans for a new hospital must be thoroughly explained so that the public has confidence that the mental health treatment available for people in the area is first-rate.