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New mental health unit 'is best of its kind'

PUBLISHED: 14:55 11 May 2009 | UPDATED: 09:29 06 July 2010

A brand new mental health unit was described as the best in the country by a consultant psychiatrist at its opening today.

The new psychiatric intensive care unit is the first in Norfolk, meaning that the most seriously ill people no longer have to travel long distances to be cared for.

A brand new mental health unit was described as the best in the country by a consultant psychiatrist at its opening today.

The new psychiatric intensive care unit is the first in Norfolk, meaning that the most seriously ill people no longer have to travel long distances to be cared for.

Justin Gardner House at Hellesdon Hospital will take its first patients from tomorrow. It contains an 10-bed intensive care ward, called Rollesby ward, and a 12-bed low secure unit, called Whitlingham ward, for longer-term patients who are ill enough to need extra security.

Patrick O'Brien, locum consultant psychiatrist, said: “I have worked all over the country as a freelance consultant in many different units, and have worked abroad as well. Of this type of facility this is easily the best I have come across anywhere. It is the best thought out, the most spacious, the best laid out. It is a proper 21st-century mental health facility.”

The building is environmentally friendly, with solar panels on the roof to generate electricity, ground source heat pumps and rainwater collected from the roof for flushing toilets. The single bedrooms all have en suite bathrooms, and there is a gym, contemplation space and courtyard garden.

Maggie Wheeler, chairman of Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust, said: “I couldn't be more pleased with it. It enables us finally to treat people at their most ill, near to home and near to their families. It is a beautiful building that has an inherently calming and therapeutic atmosphere and values people. It is kind to the environment.”

She added: “When we came up with the design we said, let's not think mental health ward, let's think spa. It has a Japanese feel.”

Bob Murphy, 51, from Eccles-on-Sea, helped with the design and furnishings of the new unit in his role as chairman of the trust's service user council. He has in the past been treated for bipolar disorder in a psychiatric intensive care unit in Roehampton, and said the Norwich unit was much better. “It exceeds all expectations. It feels very airy. The colour scheme is excellent. The staff have been very supportive of the service users' involvement.”

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