WORK on a new £68million Sunderland hospital for patients with mental health problems is under way.
A turf-cutting ceremony took place as construction began on the former Ryhope Hospital site this week.
The new multimillion-pound facility will replace the old and outdated accommodation at Cherry Knowle Hospital and Palmer Hospital in Jarrow, South Tyneside.
The 122-bed mental health development facility is being built by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust could be open to patients two years from now.
Norman Hildrew, a carer representative involved in the planning of the new hospital, who is also a governor of the Trust, was on site to see the first sod cut by a digger.
Jules Preston, chairman of the trust, said today: “One of our aims is to provide first-class care in first class accommodation for all our service users and staff.
“The need to improve our mental health facilities for people in Sunderland and South Tyneside has long been recognised, so this is a tremendous step forward towards achieving this aim.”
Although a name for the hospital has not yet been decided on, trust bosses are currently consulting staff on what the development should be called.
Construction of the unit will start this September and is due to be completed by October 2013 and operational by summer 2014.
The construction work, being carried out by building firm Laing O’Rourke, will provide employment for between 250 to 300 workers.
As well as the Ryhope development, a new 24-bed dementia care unit is being built at Monkwearmouth Hospital for Sunderland and South Tyneside residents.