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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Health unit will be centre of excellence

A £27 MILLION national centre of excellence is just months away from opening in Prudhoe.

The new 40-bed Ferndene Centre will care for young people with learning disabilities and mental health problems from all over the UK.

Not only will it secure the jobs of the 140 staff currently working on site, but also bring another 12 or so in its wake.

Located within the grounds of the all but defunct Prudhoe Hospital, it will bring five separate units under one roof.

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Lisa Rippon said: “I don’t know if Ferndene is unique, but it is very, very unusual to have a range of services like this in one place.

“It will provide a specialist service, which is excellent for young people within this region who will no longer have to travel outside of the area for treatment. It will be on their doorstep.

“Some young people will have to travel hundreds of miles to access this service.”

At its peak, during the 1970s, Prudhoe Hospital had up to 2,700 adults and children on its wards, but following the advent of care in the community, the size of the operation was scaled back dramatically.

While historic Prudhoe Hall and its Victorian walled garden have been conserved, work is in hand to breathe new life into the rest of the site.

“Ferndene is desperately needed to provide state-of-the art facilities for young people,” said Dr Rippon.

“There are a lot of derelict buildings on this site following the closure of most of the services and we have been trying to make the best of what is left.”

Being constructed at the behest of the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, the centre will provide 21st century accommodation for what will become four units.

Between them they will treat conditions such as severe depression and anxiety, psychosis, bipolar disorder and challenging behaviour arising out of poor mental health.

The Riding Unit, with its six beds, will cater for young people with all levels of learning disability, between the ages of four and 19.

Fraser House, for young people aged 12 to 19 with a mild or moderate learning disability, will have 12 beds.

Stephenson House and its eight beds will operate as a low-level secure unit for 14 to 18 years olds.

And the existing Redburn Unit will be merged with Newcastle’s Fleming Nuffield Unit to form the Young People’s Unit, caring for those suffering from mental health problems.

Its 14 beds will include four dedicated to intensive care and two specifically for young children.

Young people with eating disorders, who in the past have been admitted to the Redburn Unit, will instead be referred to another, dedicated service being established elsewhere.

The positioning of the learning disabilities and mental health services alongside each other recognises the fact that those with learning disabilities had a greater tendency to suffer from depression and psychosis.

Dr Rippon said: “Ferndene will provide better integrated care by bringing the services together under one roof.

“We have a low turnover of staff, so we have built up a wealth of expertise over the years in both the mental health unit and the learning disability services.”

The addition of the four intensive care beds would allow young people with severe mental health problems to be admitted under emergency measures, whereas in the past some had had to be transferred out of the region for treatment.

Each patient would have their own bedroom, most with en-suite facilities, and there would also be a visitors’ flat available for use by families.

There would also be education and recreational facilities, such as classrooms, art and woodwork studios, a sports hall, gym and cafe, a library, therapy rooms, and office space.

Some of the young people themselves had been closely involved in helping draw up the design for Ferndene.

Their influence could be detected particularly in the size of the new sports hall – it was much bigger than originally planned and was now capable of hosting indoor football.

With very low self-esteem and depression a common problem for the young people concerned, a strong emphasis was placed on developing social skills, healthy living and exercise.

And behaviour management strategies that would help a young person cope once they were back in the wider community were equally important.

“For many young people, this might be the most positive placement they have had in their lives – they begin to feel safe and secure,” said Dr Rippon.

“We then have to plan their transfer back into the community very carefully indeed.”

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