Campaigners on ward shake-up which could see patients travelling to Ipswich

Hellesdon Hospital, Tim Allard of MensCraft (inset)

Hellesdon Hospital, which could turn its Rollesby ward into a single-sex unit, Tim Allard of MensCraft (inset) - Credit: Archant

Proposals for a new ward at a mental health hospital to be female-only have been met with mixed reactions from campaigners. 

A plan is being considered for the Rollesby ward at Hellesdon Hospital - a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) - to make it single-sex after a refurbishment due to be completed next month. 

However, this would mean men in need of its services would instead be sent to Ipswich, which would also become a single-sex PICU, but for male patients.

And mental health campaigners say this would be the main flaw of the proposals, although proposals for single-sex wards have been welcomed.

Tim Allard. Picture: Tim Allard

Tim Allard. Picture: Tim Allard - Credit: Tim Allard

Tim Allard, of Norwich-based charity MensCraft, said: "I think generally we are supportive of the idea of single-sex units as there is value and benefits to that.

"However, the impact of local care and closeness to family support networks cannot be understated and is incredibly important to recovery.

"The distance is clearly a disadvantage in that sense, not just for the men having to travel to Ipswich but women in Suffolk having to travel to Norfolk.

"It is not the other side of the country though and given how large Norfolk is, Norwich to Ipswich is actually a similar distance to travelling from one side of Norfolk to the other - King's Lynn to Great Yarmouth for example."

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Likewise, a spokesman for the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk raised concerns about the distance people would need to travel if the proposals do go ahead.

The spokesman said: "Single-sex wards are much better, but for men to have to travel almost 50 miles is unacceptable, and vice versa for Suffolk. This places strain on families wanting to visit."

The Rollesby ward has been out of action since March, having closed for refurbishment after suffering "significant damage" - with repairs to the tune of £60,000.

It is due to be re-opened in December, although it had previously been hoped the ward would be back in use this month.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, has been approached for comment.