A NEW £2 million mental health unit has been opened in Bolton meaning women with acute issues will not have to be sent around the country.

The Honeysuckle Lodge pilot opened last week at Royal Bolton Hospital with a helping hand from Octagon Theatre Bolton, some of its actors and artistic director stopped by for the opening.

Shirley Wheeler, head of operations for the rehabilitation division of GMMH, said: “Previously there hasn’t been provision for a specialist mental health unit for women.

“As a result of that any woman that needed that level of service had to be sent out to places across the country and often that was to a private provider.

“That’s not how we want to provide our service, ideally we should be able to meet people’s needs locally.”

Treating people with mental health concerns away from their homes means they often struggle to return home, being geographically removed from familiar surroundings and their families.

By having a unit in Bolton it is hoped more and more women will be able to return to their communities and their homes as time goes by.

Elizabeth Newman, artistic director of the theatre, visited the unit before the opening to meet service users receiving care and hear their stories.

She said: “We’re really thrilled that these lovely women have come back to Bolton.

“My interest in working with people with mental health difficulties is because of my grandmother. She ran a day centre in Croydon called Lantern Hall, where me and my sister used to visit most days after school.”

This is the start of a partnership between Honeysuckle Lodge and the Octagon. There are plans to host workshops in drama and performing arts for service users in the near future.

Actors Michael Peavoy and Eleanor Brown, and director Ben Occhipinti, from the Octagon Theatre recited poetry for attendees, which included the service users now receiving care at the unit.

Honeysuckle Lodge will be run by staff from the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust and the Alternative Futures Group (AFG).

The funding for the unit has come from Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Ms Wheeler said savings created by removing people from private care around the country and providing it in the borough would pay for the service.

Dr Barry Silvert, clinical director for commissioning at Bolton CCG, said: “Bolton CCG are proud to have funded Honeysuckle Lodge as it will deliver our main priorities — delivering the right care, at the right time, and in the right place. We look forward to seeing the positive outcomes for service users delivered by this unit.”

AFG’s chief executive, Neil Campbell, said: “The development of Honeysuckle Lodge will ensure that women who have been placed in out of area treatments can return to their home town, which is so important to their health and wellbeing.

“Staff at Honeysuckle Lodge will work collaboratively with the women, tailoring services to the needs and aspirations of each individual - supporting them to lead the lives they want as active citizens in their communities.”