Work begins on eight-bedded Bournemouth CAMHS PICU

Construction has begun of a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) for Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust at its Alumhurst Road site in Bournemouth.

Designed by Medical Architecture alongside the Trust, and being built by Kier Construction, the new building will take advantage of its elevated woodland site to create ‘a safe and therapeutic space for the recovery of a vulnerable patient group’.

Medical Architecture said: “There is currently a shortage of facilities in southern England for children and young people with an acute mental health illness who cannot be safely cared for on a General Adolescent Unit. This proposed facility will enable staff to effectively treat patients displaying highly complex and challenging behaviours in a secure and dignified setting.” Designed to accommodate patients aged 12-18, the building includes eight inpatient beds, day spaces, a two-classroom school facility, treatment spaces, a tribunal room, a seclusion room, a de-escalation room and an extra-care suite.

The site is close to an existing Grade II* Listed hospital building, with attractive grounds that provide a secluded and therapeutic setting. Medical Architecture says the new facility’s design has been influenced both by ‘the challenges and opportunities’ presented by the site constraints, and the ‘very specific requirements’ of the patient group. The practice explained: “Taking advantage of the steeply sloping site and woodland setting, the new building is located on an existing plateau, elevating the patient accommodation so there is a direct connection to the surrounding tree canopies. Staff accommodation is at a lower ground floor level, with access to an external landscaped area and attractive views.

“Clear zoning of accommodation enables patients to co-exist in harmony, with opportunities for separation to de-escalate tension.” Medical Architecture added. “All patient accommodation and clinical space is on a single level, linked by comfortably wide circulation, enabling ease of movement between zones, and providing clear sightlines.”

A large central courtyard will be a focal point to the patient accommodation, providing a secure, accessible outdoor area for activity. Day spaces – including a television room, games room, and lounge, are arranged around it, with engaging views to the surrounding woodland. Medical Architecture added: “Through a choreographed approach to placemaking, strategically located rooflights highlight a series of special spaces, including a snug seating area within the central corridor.”

The architects continued: “The en suite bedrooms will provide a comfortable, private space with good daylight. A large secure window, combined with the landscape’s stepped nature, provide a sense of being nestled among the treetops. A generous window seat provides a personal space that encourages calm contemplation, while looking out onto a biodiverse landscape. The bespoke-built bed and wardrobe subtly integrate the requirements for safety and robustness, while providing a display for personal items to create a familiar environment.”

With the new building to be positioned at the rear of the existing hospital site at a lower elevation to the main access route and listed building, the roof forms a prominent visual feature. Its design proposes a high-quality standing seam zinc roof finish and a buff brick base to complement the heritage buildings on the site.

As one of the early cohort of the New Hospital Programme, Medical Architecture says the scheme has helped define future NHP projects ‘in terms of forward-thinking buildability and room standardisation’. It says the new facilities will enable Dorset HealthCare to provide a high-quality service for young people closer to home and their support network, meaning reduced waiting times for admissions, faster recovery, and reduced cost to the NHS.

Matthew Bryant, Chief Executive at Dorset HealthCare, said: “This facility will represent a major step forward for children’s mental health services in Dorset. It will allow us to care for seriously ill young people close to family and friends in purpose-built, modern accommodation, greatly reducing the need for out-of-area placements, and improving their chances of recovery. We are very pleased with the facility’s design, developed in conjunction with Kier, alongside patients, staff and peer specialists. It has taken into account the site’s constraints and sensitivities.”



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