A brand-new, purpose-built facility for young people with mental health problems from across the West of Scotland has moved a step closer. Construction work is now underway on Skye House, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's new inpatient service at the redeveloped Stobhill Hospital site.
The breaking of ground marks the first construction milestone for the project, which is expected to be completed by summer 2008. Once completed, Skye House will be able to accommodate 24 young people between the ages of 12 and 17. The £7-million development will replace and expand the existing temporary inpatient service for young people at Gartnavel Royal Hospital, which presently has accommodation for 16 young people.
Dr Heather Gardiner is a Consultant Psychiatrist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in the existing young people's mental health service at Gartnavel Royal. She believes the new facility will be a major improvement: "The beginning of construction work is a real highlight for all of us who are looking forward to the eventual opening of Skye House. It means we're a step closer to having a vastly improved place to care for some of our most unwell young people.
"Having a new ward that's been specially designed and purpose-built to meet young people's needs will, we hope, lead to substantial improvements to their care and treatment."
The milestone is also being welcomed by a former patient. 18-year-old Nicola* was a patient at the existing adolescent ward for more than a year, after suffering an acute episode of mental illness. She says: "I had a bad time and was really quite ill, so I needed to go into hospital to get help. I was lucky because I was admitted here straight away: there were other patients at the time who had to go into adult units before they could come here.
"Until you're in this situation, it's difficult to guess how important it is to be with people your own age. Just to feel a wee bit as though normality's carrying on in some way means a lot. There are plenty of young people who have mental health problems and I think Skye House will make a big difference to them."
Skye House will provide in-patient treatment for young people who suffer from conditions like severe depression, eating disorders, psychosis and obsessive-compulsive disorders. The development will comprise three buildings in total: ward accommodation, treatment and office space and a third purpose-built space for education and recreation, with fully equipped classrooms and a games hall. Young people are provided with support to maintain their education by Glasgow City Council's Education Department, which provides teaching input to cover the majority of the mainstream curriculum. A social worker is also part of the team, alongside a wide range of clinical staff.
Former patient Nicola says having separate education and recreation space is an important contribution towards making the environment stable for patients: "The last thing you want when you're suffering from mental illness is to feel that you're "different". Keeping up the usual routine of being able to go to school keeps you in touch with reality. Another thing that I don't know people realise is important when you're suffering mental illness is to keep busy and have things to do. Patients at Skye House will be able to go the games hall and try to have fun.
"These things might sound small but until you're in the position of a teenager who has to spend months in hospital away from their family, you can't know how much they mean."
The young people who use NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde's existing Adolescent Mental Health Services have played an important part in influencing the final design. They have been closely involved at all stages of the planning process, with input into the design and layout. Even the name was chosen in consultation with current young patients.
Dr Gardiner says their input should soon be obvious: "It's terribly exciting for all of us to see these plans begin to take shape. As Skye House is being built, we'll see exactly how our young people have influenced it. They wanted to make sure the facility was bright and cheerful, with lots of natural light and space, because this would make it more welcoming and less stressful. It's important to remember that lots of young people have to live there for many weeks, even months, at a time.
"And they weren't just interested in what the building looked like - they were also keen to make sure it was designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible."
Among the design contributions made to the new facility include making the surroundings look less clinical and as much like real homes as possible, increasing privacy for each individual patient, providing en-suite bathrooms and improving the recreation facilities. Prior to the building process getting underway, staff from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde also visited several other wards for young people elsewhere in the UK to research similar facilities.
Right now, around 35 young people coping with a variety of conditions are admitted each year to the existing young people's mental health ward at Gartnavel, coming from across the West of Scotland. Therapy is offered both to individuals and their families, and the new Skye House will be able to offer an overnight room to families visiting from outlying areas of the West of Scotland.
When building work is complete, Skye House will have a ward area with three 8-bed accommodation units, an education and recreation building with a games hall and classroom space, therapeutic space, offices and staff facilities. The brand-new, modern, purpose-built facility will form part of a range of new services at the redeveloped Stobhill Hospital site. For more information about the new Stobhill Hospital, and to keep a virtual eye on its construction, please see http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/default.asp?page=home_newstobhillhospital.
Notes for Editors
* Mental health services for children and young people are planned on a regional basis by the West of Scotland NHS Boards (NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Dumfries and Galloway, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Lanarkshire).
* Artist's impressions of Skye House are available in jpg format from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Communications on 0141 201 4429.
* * Name and identifying details have been changed.