A computer-generated image of how the proposed CAMHS unit at Templepatrick Road will look. INNT 18-503CON
A computer-generated image of how the proposed CAMHS unit at Templepatrick Road will look. INNT 18-503CON

WORK on the construction of Northern Ireland’s first specialist independent psychiatric hospital for children and young people is scheduled to get under way near Ballyclare within the next four months, it has been confirmed.

The £10million Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) unit, due to be built within a 14-acre site at Templepatrick Road, will employ psychiatrists, therapists and other healthcare professionals offering round-the-clock care to 12 - 18 year olds with serious mental health issues.

The unit, when fully operational, will be able to deal with up to 30 in-patients and 12 day patients at any time and will provide much-needed facilities for children and teenagers suffering from severe eating disorders, acquired brain injuries and other acute conditions - many of whom are currently forced to travel to other parts of the UK for treatment. It will also be able to take emergency patients outside of normal working hours and offer specialist help to young people at risk of self harm or suicide.

Planning permission for the development - the latest in a series of major investments here by the Priory Healthcare Group - was first applied for in December 2006 and was finally granted in October 2009. However, the long-awaited project has been held up by a series of objections and legal challenges.

This week, Priory Healthcare confirmed that the project will now go ahead, as the new regulations concerning Private Hospitals have been agreed in principle by the Assembly’s Health Committee. Capital funding is in place and building work is scheduled to start in early August.

With an estimated build time of 13 - 16 months, the new CAMHS unit could be operational by late 2013 and will complement the existing 33-bed NHS CAMHS unit at Forster Green in South Belfast.

Thanking local political representatives from all sections of the community for their support for the development, a spokesman for the Priory Group said: “It is terrific now to have finally received the green light to proceed, especially after such a prolonged process. We need to say a big thank you to all of the locally elected representatives both within Newtownabbey and outside the borough, as well as the other stakeholder groups who have so ardently supported this project throughout. The response from across the community has been magnificent.”

Read the full story in this week’s Times...