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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Upgrade approved for psychiatric intensive care unit at Holywell Hospital

The business case for a proposed upgrade of a psychiatric intensive care unit at Holywell Hospital in Antrim was approved at a board meeting of the Northern Health and Social Trust recently.

Two wards, male and female, containing a total of 14 beds, are to be reconfigured to provide two individual en suite bedrooms in each ward. The development will also deliver an upgrade on observation facilities.

Petra Corr, the Trust’s Interim Divisional Director of Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community Well-being, explained that the communal ICU does not offer sufficient privacy or personal space, and as a result,  this can contribute to “additional stresses, strains, tensions and incidents in the ward environment”.

“We are very keen to move to individual rooms for patient privacy for their mental health journey.

“This will allow for improvement of the ward environment. It will improve the patient experience and should reduce incidence of aggression from a shared environment.”

Trust board member Jim McCall emphasised how critical this facility is to the service provided at Holywell Hospital.

“It is essential for us to take this forward as a priority,” he said.

“Modern mental health provision is critical. This development deserves the Trust’s full support.”

Trust board Chair Bob McCann commented: “I am absolutely amazed in this day and age, psychiatric patients do not have individual rooms.”

Meanwhile, a new £80m mental health facility is to open on the site of Antrim Hospital in 2026, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has been told.

The 134-bed building will replace the existing Holywell Hospital at Steeple Road in Antrim.

Holywell Hospital was built in 1898 to accommodate 1,000 patients with the three Tobernaveen wards opening in the 1950s.

Currently, Holywell Hospital has 116 acute in-patient beds with a further 18 at the Ross Thomson Unit at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine.

Councillors were told by Northern Health and Social Care Trust officials of a lack of single bedrooms resulting in “poor observation of patients” and no separate provision for “frail mentally ill patients”, limited access to outdoor space with family visiting, dining and activity space described as “inadequate” at Holywell Hospital.

The unit at Causeway Hospital was “not designed for mental health delivery” with dormitories and single bedrooms, councillors also heard.

“We want to create an environment focused on patient centred care. We want to reduce stigma associated with being in a mental health hospital,” said Richard Bakasa, Northern Trust’s assistant director, mental health and in-patient services.

Outlining the schedule for development, Alison Renfrew, project director and assistant director of capital development, said the £80m business case has been approved to progress plans with the concept design to be completed by May 2022 and a planning application to be submitted later next year.

Construction is scheduled for completion by April 2026 with the new building expected to be operational by October that year. Neighbours are to be kept informed on progress with two updates scheduled.


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