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Northern Ireland has the highest prevalence of mental health problems in the UK, stemming from both the legacy of the Troubles and a range of wider socio-economic factors (Department of Health, Northern Ireland Mental Health Strategy 2021-31).
Dealing with this pressing issue requires bold steps and substantial investment, as set out in Northern Ireland’s Mental Health Strategy 2021-31. This strategy outlines a funding plan to create three new Mental Health Inpatient units to deliver state-of-the-art therapies and treatments.
The new Birch Hill Centre for Mental Health will be one of these projects. By providing new, purpose-built accommodation, we will be able to build a world-class service to benefit people right across the Trust and the wider region.
Existing Trust Mental Health provision at Holywell Hospital and Causeway Hospital (Ross Thomson Unit) have served the Trust well. Today, neither building supports the delivery of excellent mental health care and in order to enhance our service they will both be relocated to the Antrim Hospital site.
The Centre for Mental Health will provide assessment and treatment to people 18 years of age and over who are experiencing acute mental illness. This new facility will offer single bedroom, modern, fit for purpose facilities for these patients.
Safety is of paramount importance in all of our healthcare settings. We strive to provide people who need our services with high-quality care in a way that is respectful and safe. Our staff are highly trained and skilled and safety for all is a key principle in design of our new hospital.
Should planning consent for the new Centre for Mental Health be secured, we would anticipate the tender for the construction work being advertised in Q4 2024, with award of contract anticipated for Q2 2025. This would be followed by an anticipated 2-year construction phase, with a preliminary target for handover in Q2 2027, followed by a 6 month Trust commissioning period.
We are currently undertaking a full public consultation, comprising both online and offline consultation methods. For more information, please explore the rest of this website.
The main entrance will face towards the North of the site and wards and bedroom will be arranged around the outside of the buildings, with windows facing outwards. The extensive landscaping and fencing work on the boundary with residents that we have put in place, as well as the fact that all inpatient accessible areas will be on the ground floor of the buildings, will safeguard neighbour privacy and ensure no overlooking.
The current boundary has been upgraded with a new fence in keeping with the fencing used elsewhere on the Trust site, with landscaping internal to the boundary. This aspect of the development was taken forward first, to ensure that the new planting on the boundary has a chance to mature before the centre for mental health becomes operational, ensuring the boundary is clearly demarcated and ensuring privacy for neighbouring residents.
The upgraded boundary and landscaping has been designed to ensure that it will not afford the possibility of becoming a thoroughfare.
We have instructed ecologists to carry out studies which will give us a clear understanding of the site’s habitat potential. We will be undertaking full mitigations based on their recommendations to compensate for any loss of habitat.