The doors to the Redwoods Centre in Bicton Heath, Shrewsbury, were thrown open for more than 300 service users, carers, staff, family, friends and the public yesterday. Patients move to the site on September 23.
The opening of the centre, which is run by South Staffordshire and Shropshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, marks the closure of Shelton Hospital – the last remaining Victorian asylum in the country which was built in 1843.
Up to 400 existing staff will move over to the 10-acre inpatient facility when patients transfer on September 23, with an extra 100 new positions being created at the centre and in the community.
Health bosses said the project, which started in January 2009, had come in £1 million under budget and maintained it would transform the quality of mental health provision in Shropshire. It will provide 80 adult mental health beds for Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin, and 23 low secure beds for the West Midlands.
Andrew Hughes, project director, said: "In 1956 there was a headline in the local paper which read: 'Shelton Hospital to close' and as far as I understand it there has been about eight attempts to close it since.
"The reason this has happened now is because everybody – from commissioners, health providers, the local authority and people in general – have all agreed that enough is enough and that we need a better inpatient environment. It represents a big and revolutionary change not only for Shropshire but the whole region."
Steve Jones, chairman of the trust, said: "The opening is the culmination of over 60 years of planning and I am proud to say it is our trust which has made this happen.
"Now is the time to move on and provide modern, cutting edge and fit-for-purpose mental health services. The days of the asylum and the stigma attached to that have also been confined to history."