Alumhurst Road

Mental health is as important to living a fulfilled, active life as physical health. As society increasingly recognises this, more people are seeking help, meaning the need for mental health services is greater than ever and continues to rise.

Over the past decade we have seen an ever-increasing demand for CAMHS services as a whole with a particular spike during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complexity of cases has increased as well as the numbers. There has been a significant increase in eating disorder referrals with significant numbers of young people waiting for inpatient beds.

What is proposed?

The following plans were approved by BCP council in April 2023. They have been designed to minimise impacts on the surrounding areas. Local neighbours, patients and their representatives, staff and partners all provided input and feedback on our designs prior to planning approval.

There are already Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provided at Alumhurst, with 28 in-patient beds, 10 of which are for young people aged 12-18 years who have acute mental health difficulties.

It is vital for patient care that the new CAMHS Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) is co-located with existing services, so it can provide care for young people with mental health difficulties significant enough to need a secure environment and 24-hour support.

Mental health is as important to living a fulfilled, active life as physical health. As society increasingly recognises this, more people are seeking help, meaning the need for mental health services is greater than ever and continues to rise.

Over the past decade we have seen an ever-increasing demand for CAMHS services as a whole with a particular spike during the COVID-19 pandemic. The complexity of cases has increased as well as the numbers. There has been a significant increase in eating disorder referrals with significant numbers of young people waiting for inpatient beds.

CAMHS PICU - A vital new ward for Dorset’s young people

We plan create a brand new in-patient intensive care unit at our Alumhurst Road site. This will be for children and young people in mental health crisis. This means:

  • improved emergency support and standards of care for children and young people
  • younger patients can access the specialist care they need
  • the latest facilities will improve recovery times
  • treatment will be close to friends and family, with space for families to stay if needed
  • fewer distressing out-of-area placements, which separates children and young people from their loved ones, hampering their chances of recovery.

The facility is known as a psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU), and it will be accessed through the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

A CAMHS PICU is an in-patient intensive care unit for young people in severe mental health crisis, with needs so significant that they need 24-hour, secure care. In it, we will be treating young people who require inpatient treatment with needs are so complex they can’t safely be managed on a general adolescent unit such as one at the adjacent Pebble Lodge.

Some of these young people will have an eating disorder where they might need feeding through a tube via their nose, known as nasogastric feeding. They may be young people at high risk of suicide and self-harm or who have a mental illness which is making them more difficult to manage on an open ward due to their behaviour towards others. Some would be detained under the Mental Health Act for their own protection and that of others, and to enable them to get the right care so they can recover from mental health crisis.

  • New 1,500m2 modern ward
  • Eight inpatient ensuite bedrooms including one fully accessible bedroom
  • One seclusion room and one de-escalation room
  • An extra-care suite
  • A two-classroom school facility
  • A tribunal room
  • Games room, gym, occupational kitchen, central courtyard, art therapy room and sensory room
  • Space for family visits
  • Nasogastric feeding facilities
  • Place of safely provision.


Alumhurst Road proposal.pngThe design

The proposed building will maintain privacy for neighbouring residents and for patients, due to its location in the eastern part of the site. This will minimise disturbance to neighbours, whilst ensuring high-quality amenity space for residents and staff.

The building will have limited visual impact when viewed from Alum Chine.

The proposed building will be of high-quality contemporary design, using materials reflective of those already on the site and nestling the building into the wooded setting.


The wider site is home to the Grade II Listed Building Nightingale House, dating from 1867 and a listed Gatehouse constructed in 1850 as a convalescent home, which today provide a range of mental health services.

The proposed building is designed to be sensitive to this important location and will enhance the setting of the listed building by:

  • relocating parking to dedicated spaces away from the listed buildings
  • improving landscaping
  • its location relation to the listed buildings
  • limiting the new building to a single storey when viewed from the hospital
  • using high-quality, contemporary design appropriate to the site
  • retaining more trees than in previous schemes
  • adding sympathetic landscaping.

Travel facilities

The plans create dedicated parking accessed near the entrance to the site, reducing traffic through and around the site and moving parking away from the listed building.

The new parking will use soft materials rather than tarmac to blend in with the setting. Tree roots will be protected. 

Facilities will be in line with BCP Council’s parking standards and Dorset HealthCare’s Green Travel Plan. As well as better defined parking area, there will be:

  • electric vehicle charging
  • cycle storage
  • improved pedestrian access.

Ecology and trees

The wooded setting provides a lovely environment for patients and is important context for the listed building.  

There has been a significant reduction in the proposed number of trees to be removed and more will be planted to offset the losses.

Biodiversity enhancements will include:

  • a wildlife friendly landscaping scheme
  • plants that provide nectar or fruit and a broad range or colour, texture and smell
  • bird and bat boxes.

The development will meet BREEAM Excellent standards. BREEAM is the international method for assessing the sustainability of buildings, and considers things such as materials, renewable energy provision and transport.

Why we need this in Dorset

Mike and Clare’s story

Imagine your child is so unwell she needs prolonged, specialist in-patient hospital care.

But the only care available is hundreds of miles away.

This is the story of Mike and Clare, and their daughter.

  • a child in mental health crisis needing specialist in-patient care
  • no suitable facilities close to home
  • seven months away from home in two years
  • four out of county placements – Manchester, Kent and Surrey
  • 27,902 miles driven to visit and £9,000 in fuel
  • Cost to the NHS - £226,800.

Our daughter has had a total of four out of county placements since her mental health began to deteriorate. Each time, we have seen her terrified as she entered a secure ambulance to face a six-hour journey. She spent four months as an inpatient on the East Sussex/Kent border before two six week stays in a psychiatric intensive care unit in Bury, North of Manchester and a further six weeks in Woking, Surrey, all because there are no suitable facilities for children like her in Dorset or the surrounding area.

Circumnavigation of the globe equals 24,902 miles. We have driven a total of 27,902 miles to support our daughter - so literally once round the world and then one way to New York.

Every mile was worth it because we could see the immense value to her of regular time with us –to know we cared, even in her darkest times. Now she is stable and has told us the positive impact our contact had, and compared this to the adverse impact she witnessed on her peers where family visits were not possible. She believes, and I suspect the evidence will corroborate – that her recovery was quicker, and others delayed, directly linked to access to parental support when placed a long way from home.

We are not heroes or superhuman – just lucky. Lucky that my husband has a gargantuan capacity for driving long distances at the end of a working week; that our employers were supportive and flexible; that we could afford to spend £9,000 on fuel, and lucky that we have supportive friends and friends of friends who have put us up near to where our daughter has been. If we had had to pay for accommodation as well, our costs would have risen to around £14,000.

I shudder every time I think of how different it could have been. If we were on a lower income, had other young children, or different marital circumstances, we would have had long gaps where we just could not see our daughter, or get to know the professionals caring for her. Her stays in remote PICUs would have been longer and her mental health slower to stabilise. The pain and anguish was tough enough in our circumstances – I can’t imagine how bad it would be had we not been able to visit her.

Apart from the central importance of a local PICU in keeping families together and facilitating a timely recovery, there is a sound financial imperative for the NHS of supporting our young people locally. At one point, a private company was being paid £1,800 a day to care for our daughter. This means that her out of county care in just one year cost £226,800 – equivalent to two full time consultant psychiatrists or 6.5 staff nurses.

We personally know of at least six young people who also spent protracted stays out of county. Surely it makes sense to build on the fantastic service provided by the Pebble Lodge team to enable a more intensive level of care when needed.

I can only imagine the difference it would have made to our daughter to have walked through a door locally to the right care.

Mike and Clare were lucky. They had the means to travel to visit their daughter and aid her recovery.

Theirs is not an isolated case in Dorset. Many parents can’t travel to visit their children in their times of greatest need. Evidence shows those children take longer to recover. This is unacceptable for children and young people and costs the NHS more than it needs to.

A CAMHS PICU here in Dorset will provide the facilities needed to help young people recover quicker and at less cost to the NHS.

Changes since the 2018 design

The proposal has been amended to address each and every concern raised in relation to a previous planning application in 2018. We’ve redesigned the scheme, engaging with BCP Council’s planning, highways, trees and heritage professionals.

•       The new ward replaces existing buildings that are no longer fit for purpose

•       It respects heritage, being sited away from the listed buildings

•       Provides adequate parking for the whole site

•       It does not overlook or overshadow neighbouring properties. There is no detrimental loss of light or privacy

•       The design is low-level and unobtrusive, working with the lie-of the land

•       Uses appropriate materials to reflect the listed buildings on site

•       Environmental standards are high, committing to BREEAM excellence and will retain more trees

•       The proposal complies with BCP Council’s Supplementary Planning Document on Parking Standards (adopted 05/01/21).

It also supports BCP Council’s ‘Brighter Futures’ priority and commitment to “prevent harm through early intervention” for children and young people.

Project timeline

Public engagement event: 5 September 2022

Target date for submission of Planning application: 26 September 2022

Planning consideration period: 27 September – 26 December 2022

Planning approval expected: mid April 2023

Final detailed design period Sept 22-April 2023

On-site preparation Works June 23-Dec 2023

Construction on site: January 2024-June 2025

Enhanced patient care begins: Autumn 2025

Future mental health