Outline development plans by the trust responsible for mental health care in Lincolnshire would see the county’s first Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit installed at the St George’s Hospital site in Lincoln.
The proposals by the Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust would transform an unused ward in the Carholme Court area of the site for the new unit, which would be a first for the county.
Trust directors have indicated that between 45 and 50 jobs could be created, and if the plans gain full approval the facility could be ready in early 2017.
PICUs are a type of locked psychiatric inpatient ward which would normally have higher staffing levels than on normal acute wards. They provide more intensive support to patients with complex needs who cannot be managed on open wards.
Patients currently have to travel outside of the county to receive this form of specialist support, an issue which was recently highlighted by an independent commission report chaired by ex NHS chief Nigel Crisp.
The report, which was backed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) revealed 500 patients across trust areas in England travelled more than 31 miles to access care each month.
The plans being considered by trust leaders currently propose a 10-bed locked unit as an extension of the court, which is currently used for mental health care.
A decision on whether to proceed with the plans will be subject to securing finances and discussions with the trust’s commissioners and board of directors.
Ian Jerams, Director of Operations and the Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust, said: “It has been well documented in the national and local media that sometimes acutely unwell mental health patients have to travel outside of the county to receive the specialist support they need, which is not currently available in Lincolnshire.
“Commissioners and the trust are continually looking for ways to support people closer to home, as we recognise that being away from family networks is not helpful to patients for their on-going recovery.
“The trust currently owns land and buildings on the St George’s site, and already offers several mental health inpatient wards and community clinics there.
“During our early discussions we have been able to identify an existing hospital ward, currently not in use, as a possible option for the introduction of a new Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit.
“The planning permissions submitted for the site will help contribute to discussions about possible future provision of services in the county.
“We will be hosting a community information event on 30th March between 5.30pm and 7.30pm at Carholme Court, off Long Leys Road in Lincoln for anyone interested in finding out more about the proposals and will be keeping residents in the area regularly informed as discussions progress.
“It is important to note that discussions are still in the planning stage with our commissioners and no decision has yet been made.”