A PLANNING application proposing changes to a Tyne Valley mental health hospital has been submitted to Northumberland County Council.

The proposals, submitted by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, would see an extension built, along with external remodelling of the existing buildings at Ferndene Hospital in Prudhoe.

The work would allow the trust to provide both low and medium secure facilities at the site as part of a bid to bring the trust’s mental health services under one roof.

If approved, the proposals would see patients under 18 rated as medium secure moved from St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth to Ferndene, which currently has low secure facilities for children and young people.

The remodelling work would include a new entrance and vehicle ‘air lock’ to enable secure patient transfer and a new seclusion and de-escalation suite, which would enable patients to be cared for in a safe environment away from other patients

The plans for Ferndene were put to the public at a drop-in event in October, where some residents raised concerns over the possible dangers caused by young people categorised as medium risk. According to NHS guidelines, medium secure services accommodate young people with mental and neuro-developmental disorders who present the highest levels of risk of harm to others, including those who have committed grave crimes.

Under the proposals, the number of beds would decrease from 40 to 38. Fourteen of the beds would be for medium secure patients, with 100 new nurses employed. The £27m centre opened in 2011 and currently provides inpatient assessment and treatment for young people.