The Tamworth region won't need a single additional adult acute mental health care bed for the next decade, according to modelling by Hunter New England Health.
As a result, the new Banksia Mental Health Unit will not contain a single additional adult acute care bed.
Even after completion of what is anticipated to be a costly upgrade, the new institution will contain the same 25 general-purpose beds as the existing one.
That's because the New England catchment "has adequate adult acute care beds" - for people aged 18 to 64 - "to meet current and expected demand by 2030-31," according to a statement by the health service.
Instead, the health district will treat an increasing number of mental health patients in the home "where appropriate", rather than in an acute hospital setting, according to a statement by Hunter New England Health (HNEH).
The forecast is contained within secret mental healthcare modeling conducted as part of the Clinical Service Plan, completed before the announcement of a new Banksia Mental Health Unit construction in August.
The Clinical Services Plan (CSP) has not been released to the Leader despite repeated requests, but the forecasts were confirmed in a statement by HNEH in December.
Tamworth Regional Council aims to grow the city to 100,000 people by 2041. The healthcare region stretches west past Moree and up to the Queensland border.
Tamworth Mental Health Carers' Support Group, which has been lobbying for a new facility since 2018, had asked for as many as 50 beds at the new unit.
The new Banksia will include eight additional mental healthcare beds; bringing the institution to a total of 33 beds.
All eight will be specialist beds designated for patients over the age of 65.
The New England region currently does not contain a single specialist bed dedicated to patients over 65.
Modelling shows the region will need dedicated inpatient mental health services for "older people" by 2030-31.
HNEH Mental Health Services Executive Director Dr Brendan Flynn said development of the region's CSP started in 2018.
It involved consultation with more than 350 staff, consumers and community members, he said.
"This has informed the direction of mental health services across the New England region, and led to the decision to build a new mental health unit at Tamworth hospital rather than upgrade the existing unit," he said.
"Now that the preferred location for the new Banksia Unit has been identified, detailed facility design and planning is expected to start shortly."
The upgrade is expected to provide about 30 per cent more patients with inpatient mental health support each year.
The CSP has not yet been endorsed by NSW Health.
The move to "community-based care" is in line with contemporary national and international models of care, according to a statement from HNEH.
The service used the National Mental Health Service Planning Framework to estimate likely future mental health demand in the New England region.
Construction of a new Banksia does not yet have a budget or a formal timeline.
The new unit will be built on a site immediately adjacent and physically connected to the emergency room at Tamworth Regional Referral Hospital, moving just a short distance from its current location.
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