Mental Health Intensive Care Unit Opens for Patients in Downpatrick

24th April 2023
Professor Siobhan O’Neill meeting staff from the unit

“This new unit is full of light and full of hope. It is such a lovely space for people who are vulnerable and it provides them with an environment to grow and heal.” These were the words of Northern Ireland Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill who visited a new innovative Mental Health unit which has opened on the Downshire Hospital site in Downpatrick.

The ‘Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit’ (PICU) provides state-of-the-art care for individuals struggling with mental health issues and short term care and treatment for those patients who are in the most acute phase of their illness.

The unit comprises of six single ensuite bedrooms that have been fitted to the highest standard with modern décor, lighting and furniture. In addition to the six bedrooms, there is also an “extra care suite” which provides some additional outside space for those that require some extra support and solitude. The unit is bright and spacious with modern facilities and a large occupational therapy area to allow for activities as well as assessments, education on life skills along with a communal area for watching television and relaxing. Patients can also enjoy some outdoor space with the development of a court-yard and families will also be able to avail of a private room when visiting.

The new unit enhances the working environment for staff with modern facilities including new IT equipment, conference facilities and a dedicated staff room.

Chief Executive, Roisin Coulter was delighted to visit the new unit and said, “It is my pleasure to welcome Professor Siobhan O’Neill to see the new Psychiatric Intensive Support Unit here in the Downshire Hospital. The success of this project is largely down to the partnership working between our Estates Team and our Mental Health staff.

“Mental Health Services are not merely about the buildings. Our teams are people focused and are driven and passionate about delivering safe, effective and compassionate care and treatment for those patients who require Psychiatric Intensive Care services.
Among the achievements has been the successful transition of people with complex Mental Health problems, who have spent prolonged periods of time in hospital, to community placements where they can enjoy a better quality of life and greater independence. That has included the development of an award winning supported housing scheme in Conlig, which is currently home to a number of patients who were previously in Ward 27. The creation of that scheme is also the result of a collective approach and I would like to thank our regulator, RQIA and our Commissioner for the part they played in making that transformation.”

Mental Health Champion, Professor Siobhan O’Neill was impressed with the new facility and added, “This new facility provides patients with a safe space along with areas where they can meet, chat and socialise. The facilities within the unit also provides patients with the opportunity to learn the skills needed when it is time for them to move back into the community setting.

“It is so important that staff have a nice working environment. The work they undertake is challenging, helping those who are vulnerable. It also needs to be appropriate for the work they are undertaking. Staff need to have space that they can use to take some time out and this wonderful working environment provides just that. It is the staff doing the healing and helping patients recover, so the environment is an important part of this too.”

Director of Adult Services and Prison Healthcare, Rachel Gibbs stated, “The transformation of our new Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit signifies an exciting and important step forward in our determination to deliver person centred, high quality care in an environment that promotes wellbeing and recovery.’

It is hoped that patients who are admitted to the new unit will benefit greatly from the new surroundings and have a positive experience that will help them on their recovery journey.