A £12m contract has been awarded to build a new hospital unit in Oxford.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has hired construction firm McBains to build the extension at its Littlemore Mental Health Centre.

The new 22-bed facility will cater specifically for patients with learning disabilities.

McBains said the new building would be 'a secure unit where patients with learning difficulties can be treated safely and securely'.

Design work is beginning this month and the company said the unit would be fully-operational by July 2019.

Oxford Health announced in July that it would be taking over services for patients with learning disabilities in Oxfordshire from scandal-hit Southern Health.

Southern Health stopped operating in Oxfordshire after the death of Oxford teenager Connor Sparrowhawk at its Slade House unit in Headington and a subsequent NHS England report which revealed more than 700 people had died unexpectedly under its care over a four-year period.

Southern Health 'gifted' Slade House to Oxford Health.

McBains, which previously built new facilities at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, said the new unit at Littlemore would have 'a strong focus on the environment' and would be particularly 'autism-friendly'.

Oxford Health said in a statement: "As part of an NHS England initiative, we will shortly be adding a new 22-bed unit to our existing facilities at the Littlemore Mental Health Centre.

"The unit will be a regional resource to help provide safe and responsive services to people with learning disabilities from across the South of England who need care in a secure setting.

"People needing these services may be experiencing a range of conditions and have other complex needs which require specialist care to support their recovery."