WORK will begin next week on a new £52million hospital for Sunderland.
The former Ryhope General Hospital will be knocked down to make way for a 122-bed mental health facility to replace Cherry Knowle.
It will provide patients suffering from severe mental health illnesses with single en suite rooms as well as hi-tech facilities and top-class medical care.
Tony Railton, project director at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The Cherry Knowle facility has been providing mental health care for the people of Sunderland since the late 19th century.
“We are looking to continue that strong tradition on the former Ryhope Hospital site by providing 122 psychiatric beds in new single bedrooms.
“We are currently using very old and outdated accommodation on the Cherry Knowle site and it just isn’t fit for purpose any more.
“What we are proposing is much improved, new, state-of-the-art facilities and there are many benefits to both patients and the community.”
The demolition work at Ryhope General Hospital, due to start next week, is scheduled to be completed by January.
A final business case is expected to be presented to the Trust’s board in March for the stamp of approval before building work starts on the new hospital in the summer.
It is hoped the facility will be opened by summer 2014.
Patients will remain at Cherry Knowle until the new hospital is completed.
They will then be transferred over and work will start on demolishing Cherry Knowle, which is owned by the Homes and Communities Agency, with plans to build 700 new homes on the neighbouring site.
“This is an exciting project and will also be good for the community, who have been very supportive,” Mr Railton said.
“What we have found when speaking to people living in Ryhope is that they very much feel the hospital is part of the community and that is how we plan to keep it.”
He added that neighbouring St Paul’s Church of England Primary School and Fingerpaint Nursery have also backed their bid.
An information drop-in event will take place on Monday when residents can view the plans and ask any questions.
There will also be a representative from Thompsons of Prudhoe, who have been called in to carry out the demolition, as there have been concerns raised about the amount of asbestos on the site.
The event takes place at St Paul’s School, Waterworks Road, Ryhope, from 4.30pm to 7.30pm.