Leicester hospital looks set for new mental health unit to address current care failings

A new mental health building at Glenfield Hospital looks set to be approved by councillors next week. The new centre would be built on fields at the edge of the current hospital site, if councillors vote in its favour at an upcoming Blaby District Council planning committee meeting.

It would replace the existing Bradgate Unit also located at Glenfield Hospital. The Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust (LPT) which runs the unit has said the new facility is needed as the current one is “not suitable for a modern mental health service”.

The unit’s design “does not support person-centred care, particularly with regard to privacy and dignity”. As such, there is “an immediate and urgent need” to improve the mental health facilities offered by Leicestershire Partnership Trust (LPT), the application added.

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Among the concerns expressed by the trust in its application were the continued use of shared bathrooms, which can increase infection risks and lessens dignity, privacy and safety for users. There are also poor lines of site within wards, making it harder for staff to observe patients, LPT said.

Outdated systems also raise water safety concerns, particularly through the risk of legionella, and low ceilings “create an environment which is not safe for service users or staff”. There is also a lack of “sufficient therapeutic spaces and access to secure outside areas” which does not support treatment and recovery, the planning application said.

Healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission also raised concerns when it visited the Bradgate Unit in January as part of a recent inspection of adult mental health services. It rated the trust as “requires improvement” – the second lowest rating – although it did recognise improvements had been made from its previous visit.

It found that staff on some wards had not identified all potential safety and strangulation risks to patients. A patient also told the inspection team they had managed to get hold of an item from the clinic that they could have used to self-harm – a faulty door was later fixed and the patient came to no harm.

The watchdog also said one ward was “tired and in need of updating”. The report pointed out marks and cracks on some walls and light fittings showing signs of “wear and tear” but noted there was an improvement plan in place. It was also dirty in places, inspectors said.

However, these “significant issues” cannot be resolved due to the “physical constraints of the buildings”, LPT has said. A multi-phase plan has put forward by the trust to help improve care, with the bid to build the new facility forming phase one.

At this stage, only an outline application has been submitted for the proposed new unit. This means the scheme will be considered in principle when councillors meet next week, with the concrete details to be ironed out at a later date.

The application suggested the one, two and three-storey building could feature four adult mental health wards, an “urgent care hub”, off-ward therapy spaces and an education and training centre. It would be situated on predominantly greenfield – previously undeveloped – land to the west of Glenfield Hospital, next to the Leicestershire County Council headquarters.

If built, it is expected that staff, patients and services at the Bradgate Unit would be moved into the new facility. The Bradgate unit would then be “decommissioned for clinical purposes”.

A new service road also forms part of the plan. This would be a one-way access route with drop-off points at the back of each ward to allow deliveries to be made directly with minimal disruption for patients, a report by planning officers said. It would loop around the south, west and north of the site.

Later phases of planned improvements of the Glenfield Hospital site would seek to demolish the building and redevelop the area. LPT is exploring the option of constructing a permanent pharmacy building there instead, the application stated.

Planning officers at the district council have recommended councillors grant outline permission for phase one of the plan.