£2.4m specialist mental health unit has opened its doors today, to improve care for women experiencing severe mental health distress and keep them closer to home.

Woodbank psychiatric intensive care unit is based at Stockport’s Stepping Hill Hospital and run by Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust. With six beds, it provides short-term intensive care and therapy for women aged 18+ experiencing serious mental illness such as psychosis or severe depression.

The unit will accept referrals for women living in Pennine Care’s five boroughs – Bury, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale, Oldham, Stockport, and Tameside.

Previously, they would have had to be admitted to a privately-run unit, sometimes a long way from home.

Woodbank will allow them to stay closer to home and supported by their loved ones. It’ll be easier for the team to link patients with local services, such as rehab or supported housing, ensuring they can be safely discharged more quickly.

The team has already welcomed the first five patients. Over the last couple of weeks, members of the team visited the women to establish a relationship, understand their needs, and ensure they feel reassured about the move.

Patients and staff have been at the heart of the design to make sure the unit is safe, comfortable, and modern. They selected the furniture and colour schemes and chose to name the unit Woodbank, after a local beauty spot.

The unit includes single ensuite bedrooms with a TV and keypad safe, a patient kitchen equipped with the latest gadgets, a shared TV lounge for relaxing, a multi-faith room, a physical health clinic, and a de-stimulation room offering therapeutic lighting, sounds and smells. Staff are also benefiting from a spacious and bright break room and high-quality showers and changing facilities.

There’s a peaceful and secure garden area and vast amounts of open space, allowing the team to support patients’ recovery through therapeutic activities.

The décor and lighting adhere to autism standards to ensure it’s not overwhelming and the unit meets the highest health and safety standards. This includes special electronic windows with enclosed blinds, a magnetic-hinged bathroom door and two-way viewing window in each bedroom door.

The Woodbank team includes nurses, health care assistants, occupational therapists, psychologists, pharmacists, and a dedicated consultant psychiatrist. They’ll work together to provide a package of care, based on each patient’s needs and wishes.

Unit manager Vanessa Moreland said: “We’re delighted to welcome our first patients and get them settled in. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in developing Woodbank. There’s been some challenges, but it’s been a labour of love for many, myself included.

“Our fabulous and highly trained team are passionate about providing the best care and want patients to feel at home. They’ve been amazing getting everything ready, right down to welcome goody bags containing shampoo, shower gel, hot chocolate and tea bags printed with uplifting messages.

“We’ve put careful thought into everything, including bedding, colour schemes, lighting and the activities and games chosen to keep patients busy and entertained.

“We’re all raring to go, so we can start to make a positive difference to some of the most vulnerable women in our communities.”

For more information about Woodbank psychiatric intensive care unit visitwww.penninecare.nhs.uk/woodbank-picu



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