Work starts on psychiatric intensive care unit for young people 

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

An artist's impression of the new facility
An artist's impression of the new facility

Work is now underway on a new eight-bed psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU) at Warneford Hospital, Oxfordshire.

The £4mi 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 healthcare for children and young people, known as the Thames Valley CAMHS Tier 4 Provider Collaborative, which is being led by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. 

A pioneering approach

Working alongside other care providers, it is a pioneering approach that seeks to share resources and expertise to deliver 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 be launched to ensure the necessary specialist workforce is in place.

Debbie Richards, executive managing director of 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.”

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.

Meeting the objectives

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

The core objectives of the PICU will be to:

  • Assess and treat mental disorder; reduce the risk of harm a young person poses to themself and others; and manage acute mental and behavioural disturbance which is not manageable in non-secure Tier 4 CAMHS settings
  • Provide a time-limited intervention which will enable a safe transition to an appropriate alternative mental health setting as soon as this is possible; support recovery; and promote adolescent developmental tasks
  • Provide a range of specialist treatment and educational programmes delivered either individually or within groups with the aim of safely returning the young person to a non-secure Tier 4 CAMHS as soon as this is clinically indicated



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