New partnership to publish much-needed guidance on design of psychiatric intensive care units

Design in Mental Health Network and National Association of Psychiatric Intensive Care and Low Secure Units to collaborate on new design guidance

A new partnership has been announced that will lead to the publication of much-needed guidance on the design of psychiatric intensive care units (PICUs).

At the Design in Mental Health Conference in Birmingham earlier this week, Jenny Gill, chairman of the Design in Mental Health Network, revealed the organisation would be collaborating with the National Association of Psychiatric Intensive Care and Low Secure Units (NAPICU) on the standards.

Gill, who will be joint chairman of a new working group along with NAPICU’s Chris Dzikiti, said: “Today marks the start of an exciting and challenging joint venture – a venture that will improve the environment for service users and staff.”

The guidance will complement the national minimum standards and existing literature on PICU service delivery. However, very few of these existing resources pay any direct attention to the design of the built environment.

Dr Faisil Sethi, NAPICU vice chairman and a consultant psychiatrist and associate clinical director at South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “PICU units are usually small and they cater for patients in an acutely-disturbed phase of a serious mental disorder.

“The reason the environment is so key and such a challenge is that there is a high rate of conflict and violence within these wards on a daily basis and the majority of patients have a psychosis.

“It’s a very dynamic environment and so much happens in these spaces. It’s not about locking a patient in their room and leaving them there.

“There are a lot more things that go into making it therapeutic, and that includes design.

“This joint work is about design and planning and how we build these environments.”

During June and July, stakeholder listening events will be held across the country. Draft guidance will then be drawn up and presented to the NAPICU conference in September, following which there will be a wider consultation exercise. The final guidance will be published in December.

It will look at everything from interior design, layout, maintenance and the various clinical and therapeutic spaces, to waste management, infection prevention and control, technical specification, and refurbishment.

Roland Dix, NAPICU’s editor-in-chief for the Journal of Psychiatric Intensive Care & Low Secure Units, and a consultant psychiatric intensive care and secure recovery nurse at the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, said: “This is about pooling our efforts to get the best designs for psychiatric units.

“It’s about seeing, rather than just looking.”

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