In November 2020 Sefton Council gave full planning permission for a new 40 bed specialist learning disability unit, a state of the art facility offering short to medium term care for service users. The Trust's Board of Directors approved the Full Business Case in January 2021.
This follows NHS England's intention not to commission learning disability services from our Whalley site and the recent transfer of medium secure to Rowan View.
The new low secure site will offer world class care in a new therapeutic environment delivering an entirely new model of secure learning disability care.
The low secure unit is called Aspen Wood. Construction by IHP and Vinci began at Maghull Health Park in 2021 and the building will be ready for staff training and familiarisation on schedule in autumn 2023.
Aspen Wood will have two wards, with their names chosen by service users: Hodder Ward (for female service users) and Mitton Ward (for males). There will also be a gym, café and a variety of therapeutic and clinical spaces. There will be public art, designed alongside service users, as well as extensive gardens and open spaces. Aspen Wood has been designed to provide a safe, therapeutic environment to support some of the most complex patients in the NHS, and enable them to move through services and reduce the length of stay.
Positive assurance has been received from our external audit partners about the construction work, which is on schedule and meeting approval conditions. There are over 200 people on site each day building Aspen Wood including a local workforce. The building is on course to meet BREEAM environmental construction standards. In recent months, guests including governors and local stakeholders have visited the site to assess progress.
During construction, guests visiting the site have included our clinical and therapy staff, Trust governors, NHS commissioners and local stakeholders. Ahead of the opening we’ll welcome families, carers and service users to see Aspen Wood for themselves.
Aspen Wood won the prestigious Clinicians Choice Award at the November 2023 Building Better Healthcare Awards. It has also been highly commended at the recent Design in Mental Health Awards for our engagement with service users and highly commended at the Sefton Best Public Building Awards 2023.
Our Chief Executive Prof Joe Rafferty talks about the care benefits of Aspen Wood Unit as work began on site in the Maghull Health Park.
Mersey Care’s Dr Johannes Cronje, clinical lead for the project, introduces Aspen Wood in this short film.
Mersey Care and Integrated Healthcare Properties are building a 40 bed specialist facility for people with complex learning disability needs who require NHS care. Planning permission was approved by Sefton Council in 2020 following public engagement sessions in Maghull in 2019.
Aspen Wood forms part of our centre of excellence in Maghull – a range of services for people presenting with complex mental healthcare and learning disability needs, along with the Trust’s library, conference and pharmacy facilities. The location is called Maghull Health Park and the site is served by buses, a new railway station and a recently upgraded full motorway junction with the M6 around 15 minutes away.
Executive Director of Estates Elaine Darbyshire said: “Maghull has a long and living history of hospitals providing mental healthcare dating back more than a century, so we’re delighted to be building on that tradition.
"This new hospital represents significant investment of £33 million that will offer world class care in a therapeutic environment. It will also enable us to work with sector partners to provide a new model of care for complex patients across the North West.
“We’re grateful to Sefton Council, other local representatives and health partners for enabling us to proceed to the next phase in this exciting new-build programme. Ultimately it will also cement the future of Maghull Health Park as a centre of excellence, as well as help boost the local economy and jobs.”
Planning consent was granted to build a low secure unit on land off Villas Road, which is on the community facing edge of Maghull Health Park, owned by Mersey Care. The site has good transport links across the region, situated off School Lane and close to the M58 junction and Maghull North Station. The new hospital will be nearby Mersey Care centralised support services, conference and training centre, as well as longstanding facilities and newer developments including our Rowan View medium secure hospital, making the site Maghull’s biggest employer.
The new hospital will cater for up to 40 men and women with a diagnosis of learning disability, autism and comorbid conditions, needing care and treatment in conditions of a low secure setting. Each patient will have their own bedroom with en-suite bathroom, plus a range of activity areas and therapeutic spaces.
Medical Director for Commissioning in NHS England and NHS Improvement North West, Dr Michael Gregory, said: “We have asked Mersey Care to provide a new low secure unit for patients with complex care needs that gives the best modern day standards of accommodation within a new model of care.
“Gaining planning consent is a significant step forward and once the project has met all of its statutory and regulatory objectives we believe this new facility will promote the delivery of high quality care across a range of secure services we commission that reduces the length of stay for patients.”
We will use the learning from the development of the Medium Secure site and other Trust builds as we progress this latest hospital. We're using our learning as we plan the new art strategy for the LSU to ensure it is part of the infrastructure of the building and clearly linked to recovery and a life beyond care.
Maghull Health Park is becoming a major centre of attention for the highest standards of care, and it is our intention for it to be the centre of excellence for learning disability and mental health care. This, in turn, allows for quality, long term jobs and careers for staff with specialism in those disciplines, as well as support from wider services.
Our attention and aspirations are always focussed on the people who use our services, but there is also a wider focus. We are saying that here, in Sefton, Mersey Care can and will provide accessible, secure and sustainable employment opportunities for the people of the area.
When we were building Rowan View, we held a number of community events and we displayed prominent signs about local recruitment. We welcome applications from all and are always pleased to continue our local links in Sefton.
It is inevitable the job market will change significantly because of the economic consequences of the pandemic. Young people in particular will be vulnerable to this contraction with fewer employment opportunities available to them at a critical point in their life. Yet, here in Sefton, Maghull Health Park will give school leavers the chance to come into sustainable, secure employment with good jobs and salaries, giving them opportunities to develop as a professional in whatever role interests them.
This is our investment in the community. As a major healthcare provider we can offer a wide range of career opportunities. This is not only about being a nurse, a doctor or a therapist. We employ people in many different roles, from business administration to catering to building management and security.
You could be in on this at the start. If you want to come and work in this new environment, the opportunities are many. It's a chance to develop a career in an organisation and be supported in that development by people with great knowledge and experience.
One of the "selling points" of Maghull Health Park is that we're able to create a real centre of excellence wth the best staff, especially with skills in learning disability care, on one prestigious site. This also gives opportunity for career advancement of our existing and experienced workforce and gives staff the chance to work across a major new site offering the full care pathway.
We anticipate more than 150 people working in the LSU across a range of disciplines and professions (including those also working in our other Health Park buildings). Our workforce plan is being developed and is closely focussed on learning from our previous builds by ensuring all service leads are engaged.
Maghull Health Park will be the foundation to realise our clinical vision. We want Mersey Care, in partnershhip with the borough of Sefton, to be seen as a renowned seat of excellence in clinical care and ground breaking research in the field of mental health and risk reduction. We are looking at the whole infrastructure of the park and the building use across all our existing estate in planning for the LSU and the capacity of the site.
This configuration of clinical services, the only one of its kind in the United Kingdom, will generate International interest, recognition and investment. Our innovative clinical model combined with the investment in state of the art therapeutic environments will embody the gold standard in secure care for people with mental illness, learning disability and autism.
We will continue to deliver on our three major service priorities:
- Risk reduction and public protection: Providing safe and effective intervention from admission to discharge has, and always will be, our primary objective. We never lose sight of our most fundamental task, to reduce the risk our service users pose and facilitate their safe return to community.
- Recovery, integration and aspiration: The lives of people in secure care have often been troubled and certainly disrupted due to their illness. Clinical intervention must be delivered in a timely and proactive way to avoid unnecessarily extended stays in hospitals. Our clinicians work collaboratively with service users and their families to support their recovery, help them achieve their goals and ultimately, build a life beyond care.
- Capacity and demand: Ensuring timely access to appropriate care in secure hospitals is a challenging task. Often beds are unavailable for people who are very ill and they are placed in environments ill equipped to meet their needs. The close configuration of services on Maghull Health Park will allow us to manage patient flow much more efficiently ensuring the best care and treatment is available when needed most.
There have been various specialists hospital in this area for more than a century and Mersey Care is delighted to be continuing its long association with the community, particularly in Sefton.
For generations, we’ve employed many local people and are proud to be enhancing a true centre of clinical excellence in the Sefton area. We were delighted that our head of horticulture on site was recognised in Spring 2022 by a Mayoral Award from Maghull Town Council.
As Mersey Care and our construction partners Vinci work on the new state of the art Aspen Wood Hospital, we are actively recruiting from the local area. We are always keen to nurture talent in to the many roles a new hospital can offer:
- Our contractors IHP are linked into Sefton Council regarding social value delivery and looking also at local schools where presentations on careers can be provided. The sub-contractors will be promoting local employment opportunities.
- Our contractors have met with representatives from Hugh Bair College to discuss plans to take students on work experience and deliver guest speaker activities in the college
- There are currently four apprentices and one work experience student on site
- 13 new employment opportunities for the Merseyside area have been created
- There is a level 2 apprenticeship with Sefton Council in place. Mersey Care will offer 3 days’ work experience over an 18 month period. It is open to age 18+ and is a preventative measure to prevent people returning into services and is linked with the lead provider collaborative
- As at April 2022, construction labour on site currently includes Sefton 11.3%, Merseyside 52% and the north west of England 70% (for the adjoining Rowan View Hospital which opened in 2020, 79% local labour was used overall)
- in 2022, construction labour on site included Sefton 11.3%, Merseyside 52% and the north west of England 70% (for the adjoining Rowan View Hospital which opened in 2020, 79% local labour was used overall)
- in 2023 we’re continuing our partnership with the community: our contractors IHP, Vinci and Sir Robert McAlpine are working closely with students from nearby Hugh Baird College, including offering site visits for first year environment learners, work with bricklayer and joinery students and a ‘mee the professionals’ day.
- virtual event with City of Liverpool College architecture students
There are more than 20 new support staff roles on Maghull Health Park each year and more than 150 people will be working permanently at the hospital once it’s completed.
Maghull Health Park is our investment in the community and we’ve welcomed local stakeholders and politicians who have visited us. As a major healthcare provider Mersey Care offers a wide range of career opportunities. This is not only about being a nurse, a doctor or a therapist. We employ people in many different roles, from business administration to catering to building management and security.
If you want to come and work in this new environment, the opportunities are many: a chance to develop a career in an organisation and be supported in that development by people with great knowledge and experience. It is a fantastic opportunity for young people especially at the start of their career.