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-02 May. 2023

Hertfordshire mental health refurbishments highlight anti-ligature expertise

Work has been completed on the refurbishment of two mental health facilities in Hertfordshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

We’ve handed over the remodelled Forest House, a general acute psychiatric unit near Radlett and Albany Lodge, a 24-bed mental health care unit in St. Albans.

As project manager, Barry Talbot, explains, the pair of successful projects are the latest to showcase the anti-ligature expertise of teams at Willmott Dixon Interiors.


Careful planning in live environments

Children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) assess and treat young people with emotional, behavioural or mental health difficulties.

At Forest House, CAMHS services are delivered to young people between 13–18 years of age who may require more intense treatment which cannot be provided in their own home.

Limiting the disruption these young patients are exposed to during refurbishment is crucial, which is why our delivery of works was so meticulously planned.

“We established a six hour working day, which we made clear to our specialist supply chain partners from the outset,” explains Barry Talbot.

“We were also in constant communication with dedicated nursing staff to make sure that access to various areas of the building was available, and that members of our team were escorted around the site as appropriate.”


Designed with patient safety in mind

The Forest House project has seen the full strip out and refit of a high dependency unit, paving the way for a new ground and first floor extension.

Non-secure accommodation areas have been partially reconfigured and refurbished, while there is new accommodation for staff too.

The nature of the highly specialised work involved in delivering mental health services, requires an estate which meets particularly stringent criteria.

It explains the level of detail and expertise applied by Barry and the team.

He says: “Everything we have put into the building has been designed with patient care and safety in mind.

“We applied a particular resin across walls and floors, allowing more than three weeks at a time for it to set fully in each room.

“Ceilings contain mesh, the walls have been formed of plasterboard with a ply finish, while the moulded furniture we’ve installed weighs up to 65 kilos.”


Meeting the latest anti-ligature standards

Albany Lodge is located less than six miles away from Forest House and delivers services to adolescent and older people towards the end of their rehabilitation journey.

We have designed and refurbished all bedrooms within the building to meet the very latest NHS England Health Building Note (HBN) anti-ligature guidance.

There have been upgrades to four ensuite bathrooms, five communal bathrooms and a further three communal shower rooms, while a new assisted bathroom has been added in the male section of the facility.

This type of work not only demands the highest construction expertise but also requires good relationships with NHS approved suppliers too.

“All light fittings were specified, beds with square posts and rounded edges were carefully screwed to the floor and specialist radiator covers were also installed,” says Barry.

“There are sloping wardrobe roofs, anti-ligature door stops, toilets fitted to the walls and anti-barricade hinges on oversized, NHS-approved doors. We have even installed anti-climb guttering.”


A different way of working

One of the key challenges in delivering the Albany Lodge refurbishment was the short amount of time for site inspections before the project began.

As medium secure patients had to be asked to leave their rooms, Barry often had as little as 45 minutes to conduct a site survey.

During the fit-out, staff completed a daily sign-off of work against a checklist. In addition, as each phase was completed, further checks were made from an infection control perspective to ensure that everything complied.

Just like at Forest House, the project schedule was also carefully planned around the specific needs of service users. Battery powered tools were used wherever possible and noisy works were confined to set spaces.

Barry explains: “We would start work at 9am once service users had vacated their bedrooms and would continue until 4pm when we’d hand back to the clinical team for inspection.

“All works were phased, and it was a longer project because of that, but we had a weekly ‘look ahead’ programme in place with clinical staff which enabled them to manage service user expectation.”


A partnership from pre-construction to project delivery

The refurbishments of Forest House and Albany Lodge add to an impressive body of anti-ligature work that has been carried out by Willmott Dixon Interiors.

They include Group-led projects at Broadmoor Hospital and South London & Maudsley Hospital while we have also been contracted to deliver a phased programme of refurbishment at St. Michael’s Hospital in Warwick, an inpatient mental health rehabilitation unit.

Our experience and expertise means we can work with customers from preconstruction to project delivery, through a collaborative approach which improves the staff environment and patient pathways.

We can also offer significant benefits to NHS Trusts, playing an important role in helping them to prevent vulnerable people from accidentally or intentionally self-harming.

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