Specialist facilities

Expert care for mothers facing mental ill health

Exeter-based Grainge Architects was last summer appointed to design one of four new Mother & Baby Units commissioned by the NHS in England to allow women needing mental healthcare to stay with their babies while receiving the specialist care they need. Here, Tony Pollintine, co-owner of the practice, and the director who developed the project concept for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s new Mother and Baby Unit at its Wonford House site in Exeter, reports.

According to NHS England – which last September officially announced the four mental health providers to benefit from a new MBU as Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust – as many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth. The wide range of conditions faced include severe depression, anxiety, and in some cases postpartum psychosis, which affects around two in every 1,000 new mothers, and is strongly associated with maternal suicide. NHS England said the four new Mother and Baby Units would provide inpatient support for women and their babies ‘with the most complex and severe needs who require hospital care, and who are experiencing severe mental health crisis, including very serious conditions like post-partum psychosis’.

Simon Stevens, chief executive at NHS England, said: “The NHS is serious about delivering more personalised care to new mums, and that includes better specialist mental healthcare for those who need it. Having a baby should be one of happiest, most life-changing experiences, and every mum should have the opportunity to bond with her baby, while receiving the care she needs, and remaining as close to her family as possible.”

South West. The project was unique in that, of the four centres to be commissioned by the NHS nationally, this one was to be the only purpose-built new building; the other three were to be refurbishments of existing buildings. Our practice was selected on the basis of our previous mental health experience; working with the Devon Partnership NHS Trust we had successfully delivered projects at Wonford House and Franklyn Community Hospital in Exeter, and Langdon Hospital near Dawlish.

A floorplan of the new MBU.


NHS England added: ‘Mother and Baby Units provide specialist care for mothers experiencing severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or psychosis. They enable the treatment and recovery of the mother, while ensuring the developing relationship with their baby and its physical and emotional wellbeing. The expansion of services puts resources in areas with the most need; improving access to evidence-based treatment is shown to increase recovery rates, leading to better outcomes for women and their babies.’ Grainge Architects became involved in the

project following Devon Partnership NHS Trust’s successful bid to NHS England to secure funding for a Mother & Baby Unit (MBU) for the

AN INTENSIVE PERIOD OF DESIGN Due to the delivery challenges facing the Trust, once the funding bid was secured, the design process necessitated a rapid start. We were formally appointed to commence the design of the MBU in July 2017. An intensive period of design ensued, after which a detailed planning application was submitted on 29 September 2017, and planning approval granted on 15 January this year. The project was tendered to building contractors towards the end of 2017 through ProCure22, and Interserve was awarded the contract. The detailed design of the unit was undertaken while approval of the project was still being considered by Exeter City Council’s Planning Department.

Site work commenced in February 2018, with completion due before April 2019, the end date being a stipulation of the original bid award to the Trust. A full professional project team mobilised really quickly, with representatives from the Trust’s clinical team – including doctors, psychologists, and senior nursing staff – joining the team to work with the architect, consultants, and a project manager, with a healthcare planner also inputting into the developing project brief.

REVIEW OF EXISTING UNITS The team began a process by both reviewing existing units, and also visiting a number of recent MBUs, including units in Hackney,

The aesthetic of the building is a carefully handled through the use of a balance of materials, including timber cladding, render, zinc roofing, and glass. THE NETWORK

JULY 2018 29

©Grainge Architects

©Grainge Architects

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