PLANS for a new low security inpatient unit at an Oxford mental health centre can now get underway after securing more than £8m in Government funding.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust was given planning permission to build the extension at Littlemore Mental Health Centre in September.

The unit will provide care for adults with learning disabilities.

And this week, the Department of Health has confirmed funding of £8.5m to develop the new 10-bed ward at the facility in Sandford Road.

Clinical director of forensic mental health at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust Dr Jude Deacon said: “We’re really excited to be developing a new low secure service for people with learning disabilities who may or may not also have autism.

“We’re planning to open 10 beds working with architects and Autism Oxford to make sure the building plans are informed by the most up to date technology and the best available evidence-base.

“There’s a real concentration at Littlemore Mental Health Centre of skills and experience of managing secure services and looking after people who might have complex needs.

“It’s really important that our patients are able to be treated closer to home, their friends, their social networks and close to their community in which they will complete their recovery.”

Ox Health took over responsibility for the provision of learning disability services in Oxfordshire from Southern Health NHS Trust in July 2017.

The move came in the wake of the death of 18-year-old Connor Sparrowhawk in 2013 who drowned at a care unit in Headington, at the time run by Southern Health.

The change meant Ox Health took on responsibility for around 670 people in the county who have a learning disability and are over the age of 18.

However, it was agreed that the awarding of the contract would be subject to the creation of a new low secure unit in the area.

The agreement with NHS England for the existing, medium secure unit (called Evenlode) was for two years, however, this also includes an ‘explicit intent’ for a new 10-year contract, from April 2019, for the planned low secure extension.

Planning permission for the 10-bed ward was submitted in late June 2018 and was approved in September.

The extension will link two existing buildings at the centre and can be seen with the grey roof in the design above.

Initial works are due to begin in 2019, now that funding has been confirmed.

According to the plans the beds will be formed around a hub of day spaces, quiet rooms and therapy spaces, including a gym, art room and sensory room.

The unit is due to be completed in late 2019 or early 2020 and operational in 2020 at an estimated cost of £8.5m.