A new low dependency mental health unit will lead to a further 10 beds added to the Canberra Hospital as part of a $10 million ward upgrade.
The project, which has been funded by the federal government's community health and hospitals program, is expected to be completed by the middle of 2021.
Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury said the added beds would help the hospital deal with an increase in demand for mental health services.
"The [ward] 12B Low Dependency Unit will reduce waiting times for mental health patients and improve access to specialised and individual interventions, reducing recovery time and length of stay in hospital," Mr Rattenbury said.
"These additional beds will also improve patient flow throughout the system, reducing pressure on acute and sub-acute inpatient beds."
The clinical director of adult acute mental health services at Canberra Hospital, Dr Florian Wertenauer, said a multidisciplinary team would staff the new low dependency unit.
The unit would support people with a range of psychiatric presentations, including psychosis and mood disorders, as well as crisis admissions, with an average stay length envisaged to be between 10 and 14 days, he said.
"Where a person may need a more intensive treatment regime or for instance are at a higher risk of harm to themselves or others, then the existing adult mental health unit at Canberra Hospital would be more appropriate," Dr Wertenauer said.
Mental health presentations at the Canberra Hospital emergency department have increased since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, putting additional strain on an already stretched department.
Mr Rattenbury said there had been a 68 per cent growth in emergency department presentations to the adult mental health unit in the past five years.
"Ultimately, we expect to see improved patient outcomes through faster admission and access to the mental health services that the patient needs," he said.
Mr Rattenbury said the ACT government was also upgrading the adult mental health unit to allow for greater flexibility in accessing high dependency beds.
Between July 2019 and the end of February, 3.1 patients were admitted each day on average to the adult mental health unit at Canberra Hospital, up from 2.4 in 2018-19.
The ward refurbishment will add to the 97 mental health unit beds already available in ACT public hospitals.
Dr Wertenauer said the new unit would allow for faster treatment times and reduced wait times in the emergency department.
"Having a new low dependency unit in a separate location at the Canberra Hospital will allow the multidisciplinary team to create a therapeutic environment that can provide more tailored treatment approaches for individuals," he said.
"Co-location within the hospital will facilitate cooperation with medical and surgical units, which will be of benefit to a number of our consumers."
ACT Health confirmed last month it expected a greater need for mental health services as a direct result of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has been widely expected to have a significant and ongoing impact on community mental health.
Last year, The Canberra Times revealed internal ACT Health documents said there was a high risk of patients who had serious mental health illnesses waiting long periods within the emergency department and other wards before being transferred to mental health care locations.