• New three ward mental health unit to open at St Nicholas Hospital
  • Older people’s services to be consolidated at the same site
  • Services at Gateshead’s Tramwell Unit and Newcastle’s Hardian Clinic to close
  • Plans expected to save £3m a year

STRUCTURE: NHS leaders in the North East have approved proposals to create new mental health inpatient facilities at Newcastle’s St Nicholas Hospital.

Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group’s governing body made the decision this week to create the new three ward unit to provide acute assessment and treatment services.

The CCG also approved proposals to consolidate older people’s services at the hospital. Wards at the former Newcastle General Hospital will be closed and the funding will be used for community care services.

The plans will mean closing services at the Gateshead’s standalone Tranwell Unit, as well as the Hadrian Clinic in Newcastle.

St Nicholas Hospital, run by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, will provide acute assessment and treatment for mental health patients in Newcastle and Gateshead, and a rehabilitation ward to provide complex care.

The 14 bed Elm House unit in Gateshead will be retained as a moving-on rehabilitation unit.

The CCG said the changes will reduce the amount of time patients spend in hospital and make care in the community more integrated, with some services to be provided by community and voluntary organisations under new contracts.

No new contracts have been formalised but ideas on the table include community based services to provide housing support, residential rehabilitation, helping patients to access volunteering, education and employment, a community wellbeing hub and a recovery college.

The decision comes after a consultation with the public, patients and professionals which began last year. The options were reviewed by independent mental health experts from other parts of the county, as well as a panel of clinicians and NHS England.

The plans are expected to save nearly £3m a year by integrating community and hospital mental health services in the region, reducing the annual bill from £50.7m to £47.8m.

The CCG will prepare a detailed business case and programme on how to enact the changes in a safe and sustainable way.

Newcastle Gateshead CCG’s assistant chair and mental health clinical director, Guy Pilkington, said the changes will not happen overnight, but insisted no existing services will stop until the replacements are up and running.

He said: “We now have the chance to significantly transform our local services in innovative and creative ways that will ensure mental health services in Newcastle and Gateshead are ready to support the increasing demand for mental health care in the future and give them equal status to physical health care.

“I know that some people will be worried about what these changes will mean to them.

“I want to strongly reassure them that this is our opportunity to put mental health care at the heart of our community services in a way we have not been able to do in the past, and truly take them onto an equal footing with physical health services.”