£40m mental health facility opens its doors

Service manager for transition Lorraine McDonald-Johnson with senior matron Sheila Kasaven.
Service manager for transition Lorraine McDonald-Johnson with senior matron Sheila Kasaven.
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Mental health professionals are ready for the “challenge” as Blackpool’s new £40million mental health facility opens its doors to patients this week.

Bosses behind The Harbour, a purpose built state-of-the-art facility off Preston New Road, have said its opening marks a new era for treatment of mental health patients in Lancashire.

Preview of new mental health care facility The Harbour in Blackpool

Preview of new mental health care facility The Harbour in Blackpool

From tomorrow patients will join the facility over a phased three-week period, allowing each patient group to settle into their new environment.

Health bosses from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust have told how patients and staff alike were in dire need of better hospital facilities for treating a range of cases; from elderly people living with dementia or mothers with post natal depression to people suffering acute psychiatric problems.

Alistair Rose, project director for the build, said: “It was quite clear that the accommodation we had was holding back the delivery of good, modern mental health care.The environment shouldn’t hinder recovery process. Our current facilities really don’t improve patient conditions. There was a vision to replace that with fit-for-purpose facilities which allow the absolute best care to be provided.”

The 154-bed unit comprises a psychiatric intensive care unit, dementia unit and functional acute unit as well as a gym, sports hall, tribunal suites and reflective space in open surroundings with views out over the Fylde countryside.

All rooms are now single occupancy, en-suite, many with country views, while communal spaces lead on to outdoor areas and the majority of meals will be cooked fresh on site, in a bid to make the stay more like a home from home - “almost like a hotel,” says one staff member.

Heather Tierney-Moore, chief executive at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are really excited to start the transfer of patients into The Harbour.

“Our vision is to provide 21st century healthcare with wellbeing at its heart.

“We are looking forward to utilising The Harbour to its full potential to provide modern mental health care for our service users as well as a better working environment for our staff.”

The 530 staff who will be manning the unit are looking forward to the challenge too.

The move to one site from current units across Lancashire means big changes for many, but there is a universal understanding that what is right for the patient comes first.

Staff nurses Emma Gracie, 24, and Charlotte Wealthy, 32, are moving to the Blackpool based unit from Chorley.

Ms Wealthy said: “I’m excited to move here, I’m sure it will come with its challenges, but it’s exciting.”

Ms Gracie added: “We’re looking forward to the impact it will have on patient care, it’s so much more dignified.

“Where we are now isn’t ideal, it’s quite an old building, there’s not a lot of space and they’re mixed sex units or not single rooms.

“This place is all-singing, all-dancing.”

Blackpool’s current mental health unit, Parkwood, within Blackpool Victoria Hospital, wasn’t built to be a mental health unit, so is world’s apart from the new-look facility, bosses said.

And staff have said they are excited to be able to use The Harbour’s many facilities, including a gym, games consoles and gardens, to ensure their patients remain active and occupied.

Those behind The Harbour have moved to answer any concerns about the move of the majority of Lancashire’s mental health beds to the coast, stressing the location reflects the best place for a new build rather than the town which most needs mental health care. And despite being close to the motorway they are confident it will not pose a major risk to patient safety.

Service manager Lorraine MacDonald-Johnson said: “There’s always a risk with the location of a facility like this.

“It’s in Blackpool because we’ve got the right piece of land, plus beautiful views.”

The NHS trust is now looking to provide shuttle buses to ease any issues for people without cars accessing the unit.

As much as caring for the patients and staff using the facility on a daily basis, the unit hopes it will go some way to breaking down barriers to mental health care and reducing some of the stigma associated to conditions.

Ms MacDonald-Johnson added: “There’s not many people these days who can’t say they’ve had some experience, direct or indirect, of mental health problems. They’re people like me and you here.”