New mental health facility challenges the guidelines

Care UK and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust create a blueprint for the future delivery of mental health services with a new step-down facility in West Sussex

An artists impression of the new flagship mental health facility in Horsham

A ground-breaking joint venture aimed at creating a blueprint for the future delivery of mental health services has led to the construction of a flagship new step-down facility in Horsham, West Sussex.

Care UK and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust have launched the Recovery and Rehabilitation Partnership, believed to be the first public-private coalition of its kind in the country.

The organisation is currently working to develop a new residential facility that will focus on recovery-based care and help more people with mental health problems make the transition to independent living.

Providing a home for up to 24 people at any one time, the accommodation, which will open later this year, will be built around a central hub including flats and communal spaces, a bistro, offices and meeting rooms.

It is intended to fill an identified gap in the provision of rehabilitation care for patients in the area, particularly those who are ready to be discharged from hospital care, but would benefit from a period in a more sheltered environment before moving to full independent living.

While living there, service users will be encouraged to live as independently as possible while being able to access any of the communal areas and services they require, for example visiting the bistro for a meal.

Creating a benchmark

Alessandro Caruso from architects Gelder and Kitchen explained: “There is a lack of step-down facilities like this in the country, so we are creating a benchmark that we hoped will be followed elsewhere in the UK.

“The idea is that the environment promotes rehabilitation by allowing people to live more independently. In effect, they will be in self-contained accommodation just as they would be in a real domestic environment.”

With this in mind, the architects came up with a design that is homely, yet still makes service users feel they are supported.

“There are different parts to the building,” said Caruso. “There is a main communal space that is also the entrance to the facility. This has a way in and a way out. This was an important design feature requested by users so they could see a progression in their treatment – in one door and out the other.

“Further inside the facility there is an intermediate rehabilitation unit that is a step down from low-secure hospital treatment, offering eight beds with en-suite facilities and adjoining lounge and day spaces.

“A second area contains 16 self-contained apartments designed to form a courtyard. This layout creates an ideal safe parimeter, but also takes advantage of landscape and nature for external activities, which will become an important focus for service users.”

While the courtyard design is one Gelder and Kitchen has used before in other locations, in this case they have taken it a step further and the bedrooms are arranged around a courtyard like flats. Inside these units, the fixtures and fittings are all similar to those that would be found in standard residential properties.

Caruso said: “Is it all about encouraging users to prepare for life in the community and to develop like skills they have lost for some time when they were in hospital.

“It is very unique in that we are not using anti ligature products because the service users will not have these safeguards when they get back into the community. We wanted to design something as close to real life as we could.”

Challenging the guidance

The facility is designed to enable residents to stay for three to five years, similar to extra care developments.

“What we are doing is challenging all the existing guidance to arrive at a new concept that can be repeated at so many levels,” Caruso said.

Dr Alison Rose-Quirie, Care UK’s managing director of mental health services, added: “We believe that this joint venture is the first of its kind in the country. Our partnership with the trust brings together the best of the NHS and the independent sector for the benefit of those who will use our services”

And Dr Richard Ford, director of strategic development for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a track record of helping people to recover their mental health and wellbeing and live full lives as members of their local community. This development means we will be able to support more people and give them hope for the future.”

Work has already started on the site and the first residents are expected to move in towards the end of the year.

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