Launch of world's-first testing scheme for mental health construction products 

BRE and Design in Mental Health Network launch certification scheme for materials, fixtures, and hardware for use within mental healthcare facilities

A world-first testing scheme for construction products used in mental health care facilities has been launched, offering vulnerable patients more protection from self harm and better environments more conducive to recovery. 

The new certification scheme –  known as Informed Choices - is being rolled out by built environment specialist, BRE, and not-for-profit group, the Design in Mental Health Network (DIMHN).

The certification scheme is the result of a five-year partnership and offers comprehensive testing guidance for materials, fixtures, and hardware for use within mental healthcare facilities, helping to standardise products needed to mitigate common issues, for example, anti-barricade doors.

It will also simplify procurement for NHS trusts and other health authorities, removing the excess costs incurred through the proliferation of different products and testing methods which currently exist.

More time can then be spent on ensuring the very fabric of treatment facilities is conducive to patient recovery.

A global impact

Up until now, there has been no global standard to assess the safety of products used in mental health care and treatment facilities. 

But the impact of the built environment is increasingly considered crucial, playing a positive role in the healing process for people with mental health disorders.

This theme was explored in detail in a DIMHN report in 2017 which included research showing a 20% reduction in the average length of stay in a mental health facility following a ward refurbishment. 

To develop the certification scheme, BRE and DIMHN sought guidance from over 60 experts globally, led by a team in the UK.

BRE chief executive, Gillian Charlesworth, said: “The pandemic has resulted in a sharp increase in people suffering from poor mental health. 

“Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the construction, design and health industries work together to create safer environments for patients and we are proud to be at the forefront of this. 

“As a world first, the scheme also represents the best of British innovation, with international manufacturers and healthcare providers looking closely at adopting this standard around the world.”

Creating space 

DIMHN chairman, Philip Ross, adds: “Creating space to allow clinicians to care for those with mental ill health presents a number of challenges for designers and specifiers: the importance of creating a healing environment that supports recovery, while coping with behaviours of people who are at their most distressed time. 

“We’ve created these standardised tests to allow people involved in creating these spaces to make more-informed choices about the products within the building – better product selection, with great architecture will keep patients and staff safe, and help foster better therapeutic relationships for a more sustaining recovery.”

And it has been widely welcomed by architects and mental health service providers. 

Head of major capital and property management for West London NHS Trust, John Atkins, said: “DIMHN and BRE need to be applauded for developing this scheme. 

A key role

“The physical environment plays a major role in delivering successful clinical outcomes for vulnerable people in our hospitals suffering from mental health issues and this certification scheme will clearly become a valuable tool enabling trusts to procure products which already have a specific testing certification, which, in turn, will save them time and money undertaking their own, very-similar, testing.”

And Pete Stead, associate director at P+HS Architects, adds: “The certification scheme will be invaluable in helping design teams, trusts, manufacturers, and contractors deliver spaces that are fit for purpose and centred on recovery, allowing the environment to better reflect the needs of the care pathway. 

“The guidance will also allow project teams to assess products and specify performance levels to suit acuity and thus deliver better value for the client.”

 

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