Plans go ahead for Highfield replacement

Thursday 25 Feb 2010

Warneford Hospital to receive new young person's mental health care unit

Planning approval has been granted for the construction of a new young person’s Mental Health Care unit at the Warneford Hospital, Oxford. The £6.5m project, designed by gbs architects will replace the existing Highfield Unit and provide better working conditions for staff and exceptional facilities for 11-18 year olds.

To blend with the adjacent hospital, a palette of natural and inspiring materials has been used externally, including colour co-ordinated render, rainwater goods and window frames; buff brick echoing the Cotswold stone of the hospital’s listed buildings; and toning timber cladding.

Internally the cruciform, a shape recognised for its suitability for new mental health units in the UK, provides excellent visibility for staff, precluding any hazardous blind spots. To overcome its potential downside of long, artificially lit corridors, natural light will flood through a series of sky-facing windows and lounges, centrally placed to break up both bedroom wings.

To combat some of the daily pressures of managing such a unit – ever changing patient numbers and fluid ratio between sexes - gbs architects has created an innovative system of double loaded corridors. This provides ‘Swing Bedrooms’. Two rooms at the hub end of the bedroom wings have a double corridor system, allowing either or both to be separated from those rooms occupied by the opposite sex, whilst simultaneously being connected to the same sex wing. This means at any given time there is potential to cater for 8 ratio variations from 18-0 through 17-1, 16-2, 15-3, 14-4, 11-7, 10-8 and 9-9.

All bedrooms will be larger, ensuite and have greater privacy. There is a self-contained ICU suite, including a safe room, centrally located adjacent to the staff base. Supporting facilities include family rooms, games rooms, quiet spaces, lounges and facilities for day patients. On the first floor there is a large teaching area surrounded by art, gym and music rooms to provide a dedicated location for the kids to ‘go’ to school, mimicking the normal separation between home and school life.

Work will commence in August this year with a target completion date of August 2011.

Laura Paton

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