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New site proposal for ‘state of the art’ mental health unit in Denbighshire

A health board has come up with a possible new site for a ‘state of the art’ mental health unit after a planning committee knocked back its first proposals.

Outline permission to build a £64m replacement for the Ablett mental health unit at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, Bodelwyddan, was refused by Denbighshire councillors in January this year.

It would have seen a brand new 64-bed state-of-the-art mental health facility and multi-storey car park constructed, with the current Ablett Unit turned into administrative offices.

However residents of properties on adjacent Ffordd Parc y Castell in Bodelwyddan successfully argued the  two and three storey building would affect their privacy and visual amenity.

The new proposal would utilise a car park currently being used for drive-in Covid testing on the north-western corner of the hospital, well away from residential areas.

Jill Timmins, programme director for the Ablett redevelopment, said the health board had taken on board residents’ concerns and “remained committed to working closely with the local community”.

She also revealed the project team had ruled out the site under consideration now because of “the expected cost and disruption of moving overhead high voltage electricity cables”.

She said: “If this site is a feasible option, we will look at how our existing building design can be adapted to maximise the benefits for both patients and staff.

“We have taken on board residents’ concerns and remain committed to working closely with the local community to develop a mental health unit they can be proud of.

“The new location is away from local residents’ boundaries and may afford patients therapeutic views over green spaces to the rear of the hospital.

“We are in the early stages of developing our new plans alongside people who use our services.

“Once we are in a position to do so, we will invite the local community to examine them in detail and have their say on how we move forward together.”

The current Ablett unit is known to be unfit for purpose after a series of reports criticising the facility.

Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) was critical of conditions on the unit in reports dating back to 2014.

In its 2018 study of the Ablett, HIW chief executive Dr Kate Chamberlain said: “We identified a number of issues that, taken together, we believe represent a risk to patient safety.”

It was also home of Tawel Fan ward, which became synonymous with a 2015 report by Donna Ockenden which claimed dementia patients being treated there suffered “institutional abuse”.

The unit had been closed down in 2013 over allegations of mistreatment.

Private consultancy the Health and Social Care Advisory Service (HASCAS) was then brought in at a cost of more than £2m to conduct a second report and, despite echoing many of the first study’s findings, came to the conclusion there had been no “institutional abuse”.

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