The New England region could be left with about half the number of beds it needs after the completion of the new Banksia Mental Health Unit, according to modelling conducted for the $40 million project.
Modelling advice provided as part of the unit's clinical services plan shows the New England region will need about 34.1 mental health beds provided by the private and not-for-profit sector. The planning covers the period to 2030-31.
Centacare Executive Manager and psychologist Josie Hoffman said local psychologists are often forced to manage waiting lists due to lack of services.
She didn't have an exact estimate, but said "it's definitely not that [34.1 beds], we don't have that many beds".
"Although that would be ideal, clearly. The model works at the ideal. Most services across whatever you're measuring don't perform the ideal," she said.
"But that doesn't mean we can't strive towards that. If that's what's been determined as ideal, we want to get as close to that as possible so that we're providing the services that are needed by the community and following best practice."
UNE Professor Myfanwy Maple also told the Leader local services did not have the level of beds estimated by the model to be required.
Planners did not have access to accurate data for the true number that actually exist in the region, according to the planning documents.
The "existing funded beds" column in the latest clinical services plan released by NSW Health reads either "n.a" or "tbc".
"A full analysis was not possible as the number of existing state funded community residential and aged care partnership mental health beds in the [Hunter New England Local Health District] and [New England] regions was not available," the plan reads.
"The overall over, or undersupply of state funded beds can only be confirmed once the [Local Health District] has entered any existing community residential and aged care partnership mental health beds into the comparative analyses tables."
The release also shows the state government's decision not to build any child and adolescent mental health beds in the unit was in spite of anticipated demand.
Modelling showed the New England region generates demand for about 2.5 children and adolescent mental health beds, and will continue to do so for a decade.
"In theory, HNELHD's 12 bed NEXUS unit should be able to meet demand in the [local health district], including the [New England] region," the plan reads.
"While distances between some children's home and the unit would be a challenge, building very small units may not be practical as economies of scale may not be achieved."
Newcastle's Nexus unit will remain the closest acute unit for children and adolescents.
The first parts of the new Banksia unit's clinical services plan was published exclusively by the Leader in July.
Several sections, including the demand modelling, were initially redacted from the released documents after a government claim of privilege over them.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MLC Mark Banasiak successfully challenged the claim and it was released in August.
He said the documents show that there is a need for a child and adolescent unit in Tamworth, and the failure to provide one had knock-on effects on local availability of primary mental health care.
"It's disappointing that where clearly there is the need, they're opting to essentially centralise services in Newcastle," he said.
"We should be growing our expertise in these specific fields and encouraging doctors that have that expertise to go out into our regions."
A spokesperson for Hunter New England Health said that the new Banksia unit "will continue to provide services for children and adolescents and vulnerable persons, as it currently does."
Though it will not include any full-time child and adolescent beds, the unit will include two "pods" which can be converted from regular adult beds to serve as short-term observation beds for young people, for a 72-hour period.
The spokesperson said the pods will help provide space and time for assessment and referral to other child and adolescents specialty services for longer-term treatment.
"This aligns with best practice care for young people accessing mental health services being managed closer to families and supports where possible," he said.
"In addition, the entire unit is being designed to have flexibility, to cater for different levels of acuity, ages and care."
The local health district plans to "transition consumers from hospital to community-based care when appropriate" in line with contemporary national and international models of care, he said, improving access to adult acute beds.
The modelling was conducted according to the National Mental Health Services Planning Framework. It estimated that the state government will actually fund too many beds by 14.8 in the New England, after the new unit is finished.
To meet demand, the New England would require about 19.2 adult and general mental health beds, including 3.2 acute step up/step down beds, about 16 non-acute 24-hour support residential or community residential beds, 15 older person's beds and 0.1 children and adolescent beds.
More than 350 people were consulted as part of the clinical services planning process.
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