Work starts on psychiatric intensive care unit

New facility will provide inpatient mental health care, assessment and comprehensive treatment for young people across the Thames Valley region

The new PICU will support young people experiencing serious mental illness

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has announced that work to build a new eight-bed psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the Warneford Hospital is underway.

The £4m building, supported by NHS England/Improvement funding, will enable young people experiencing the most-acutely-disturbed phase of a serious mental disorder to receive specialist help closer to home.

Set to be built alongside the award-winning Highfield Adolescent Inpatient Unit on the Warneford site in Oxford; the facility will provide inpatient mental health care, assessment, and comprehensive treatments for young people across the Thames Valley region.

It is part of a new regional model for the delivery of specialised mental health care for children and young people, known as the Thames Valley CAMHS Tier 4 Provider Collaborative, which is being led by Oxford Health.

Working alongside other care providers, it is a pioneering approach that seeks to share resources and expertise to deliver excellent and joined-up care.

Set to open in early 2022, service users will be consulted in developing the interior look and layout of the PICU ahead of the opening and a recruitment campaign will soon be launched to ensure the necessary specialist workforce is in place.

Debbie Richards, executive managing director for mental health, learning disabilities and autism, at the site of the new unit

Debbie Richards, executive managing director for mental health, learning disabilities and autism at the trust, said: “This specialist PICU unit is essential so that young people can be cared for as close to home as possible to ensure the best-possible outcomes.

“We have seen an increase in demand and acuity during COVID. And, as the lead provider for the Thames Valley CAMHS Tier 4 Provider Collaborative, our clinicians are constantly managing regional and local pressures on beds. This additional capacity will be a most-welcome and timely addition.”

Tony James, a consultant at the Highfield Adolescent Unit, added: “I am delighted that construction is commencing on the PICU unit. It will provide a range of specialist programmes to enable a more-comprehensive inpatient care pathway.”

PICUs provide containment of short-term behavioural disturbance which cannot be contained within a Tier 4 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) general inpatient setting, including within a high-dependency area.

Behaviours of those admitted will be associated with a serious risk of either suicide, absconding with a significant threat to safety, aggression, or vulnerability.

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