23 June 2022
A new acute mental health inpatient unit for children and young people in Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes is set to open before the end of 2022.
Funding of £17m has been provided by NHS England to create a dedicated centre in the East of England for the first time, keeping children and young people close to their loved ones.
The interim centre will provide specialist, short-term care for children and young people with severe or complex mental health difficulties. It will provide eight beds.
This is part of a national NHS programme to ensure all systems have specialised services provision to meet the needs of their population.
The funding, which will establish, staff and run the centre for three years, has been awarded to the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (BLMK ICS).
The unit will also be open to admissions for children and young people under the care of other NHS services across the East of England.
East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), which provides mental health services in Bedfordshire and Luton, is the project lead.
ELFT is working in partnership with Central and North West London Foundation Trust (CNWL), which provides mental health services in Milton Keynes, and with Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (BLMK CCG).
The interim unit will be based at the Luton Centre for Mental Health, part of the Luton & Dunstable Hospital site.
Its development is being completed in partnership with service users and carers, who have chosen the name ‘Evergreen’ for the unit.
Partners are also developing a long-term plan to provide a permanent inpatient unit for children and young people within Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes, which would replace the interim service.
ELFT Chief Executive Paul Calaminus said: “Establishing an inpatient unit is a huge step forward in how we care for children and young people across the East of England.
This will enable those young people who need specialist help and support to stay close to their loved ones, friends and school – which can play a significant part in helping them with their recovery.”
Anne Murray, Chief Nurse for Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group said:
“Having mental health inpatient beds for BLMK will genuinely transform the way our system can respond to the needs of children and young people experiencing a mental health crisis.
It will give our clinicians the facility to provide a full range of care and support integrated local working with children’s social care teams. Most importantly it will mean that our children and families can be cared for near to their home, schools and community, boosting their journey to recovery.”
Claire Murdoch, Chief Executive of CNWL, said:
“This great news will be the foundation for better services for children and young people. Inpatient care will always be needed and a local service is much better. We also need to develop other services that support young people much sooner, to head off the need for inpatient care. Their mental health really is everyone’s business. This is a great step forward.”
Additional funding of £700k over the next three years has also been provided for NHS mental health services across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes to support children and young people with eating disorders.
The funding will be used to enhance core services and day care provision.
ICS partners have also been successful, as part of the national roll out of Mental Health Support Teams for Schools (MHSTs), in securing an additional seven teams for BLMK.
Each MHST works with a pupil population size of 8,000 children and young people providing early intervention and supporting development of a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing.
The seven teams will be deployed across the four local authorities over the next three years in areas of deprivation where poor mental wellbeing is impacting on children being able to learn and achieve.
The additional teams will bring the total number of MHSTs across BLMK to 11.
PHOTO: Evergreen service manager Jenny Sookraj and Madie, one of the service users involved in helping shape the new unit, visit the site.