A mental health trust in East Anglia has become the first NHS provider in the UK to introduce a “blended” service that brings together low and medium secure beds for its female patients.
The work is part of £3.85m redesign and redevelopment of all Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s secure services, for both men and women, based across both of the counties that it serves.
“Our new-look blended female service is unique in the UK”
The female service, now based at Whitlingham Ward, in Hellesdon Hospital, near Norwich, provides care to women from the East of England region with an acute mental health need and who have also come into contact with the criminal justice system.
“Our new-look blended female service is unique in the UK,” said Karen Clements, the trust’s locality manager for secure services. “Although other trusts have introduced medium and high blended services, we are the first to join our low and medium wards.
“This will bring great benefits to our patients by ensuring they can receive safe, high quality care in a less restrictive environment,” she said. “It will also focus heavily on creating good relationships between staff and service users, which in turn will help diffuse potentially difficult situations without the need for physical interventions.”
“It will also focus heavily on creating good relationships between staff and service users”
She added: “All of this is good news for our staff and our patients, and it is vital when you consider that many of our patients remain with us for a number of years.”
In addition, Ms Clements suggested the move would enable the trust to “flex” its bed use and manage demand for its secure services more effectively.
“There has traditionally been greater need for low secure beds rather than medium security, with the latter at times sitting empty and the former oversubscribed,” she noted. “And we have less demand for female beds than male overall.
“So, in this way, we are not only improving the environment for patients and staff, but we are also using NHS resources more wisely with an innovative new approach and service,” she said.
As part of the change there has been a £895,000 extension and refurbishment project. It has seen an additional four en-suite rooms added to Whitlingham Ward – previously a 12-bed low secure unit only – taking the trust’s total number of female secure beds to 16.
‘First-of-its-kind’ secure service set up by mental health trust
Meanwhile, its eight-bed Acle Ward – formerly a medium secure all-female unit, based at the Norvic Clinic in Thorpe St Andrew – has been decommissioned as a female unit.
The clinic, as a whole, will now be an all-male secure unit. The trust has also begun a £2.2m project to redevelop and refurbish the facilities there, which will see it reconfigured into three wards with integrated seclusion facilities, rather than its current four.
Similar work is underway at Foxhall House, the trust’s an all-male secure unit in Ipswich. Five additional en-suite rooms will open there this month, increasing beds from 11 to 16.
As part of its overarching secure services transformation, the trust’s secure beds will increase from 80 to 82, and facilities will be brought up to date and made “fit for purpose”, it said.