Plans have been submitted for the new specialist perinatal mental health service inpatient Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) within the grounds of Wonford House, Exeter.
The MBU, for women who experience complex and severe mental health needs, will be a three-storey building which will include a secure perinatal ward, two self-contained one-bed flats and eight bedrooms, treatment and therapy spaces and staff offices with associated clinical and non-clinical facilities.
Planning permission has already been granted to build a 10-bed Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) on the site which will provide care and treatment for both men and women. Devon does not currently have a PICU and people with mental health needs have to travel outside the county for intensive care and support.
Work on the PICU will begin at the end of October and it is expected to open in January 2019.
The new MBU is one of four commissioned by NHS England to address a shortfall of beds nationally and will provide women from across Devon, Somerset and Cornwall with a much needed specialist inpatient service, reducing the need to travel such large distances for care and treatment in the future. It followed a lengthy campaign for a unit to be located in Devon and then a formal bid was submitted to NHS England early in 2017.
Chief Executive, Melanie Walker, said: “In Exeter, we are gradually developing the Wonford House site as a major hub that will provide a wide range of services. In 2015 alone, there were 116 placements outside the county for people who needed intensive care, some as far away as Bradford, and this is simply unacceptable. We want to make as many services as possible available locally and both the MBU and the PICU will help us achieve this goal."
The aim is for the service to be developed in a phased way with four beds becoming operational within Wonford House by March 2018, and a new purpose-built MBU, providing eight beds, being built in the grounds and opened in Exeter in 2019.
Dr Jo Black, Consultant Psychiatrist and Clinical Lead for Perinatal Services said: “It is difficult to overstate the difference that this new unit will make to the lives of new mums from across the south west region and their families.
“At the moment, women who have serious mental health needs following the birth of their baby have to do one of two things. They can either be supported, outside the county where they live, in a specialist MBU, often hundreds of miles away, or they can be admitted to a general adult psychiatric ward, but have to be separated from their new born child.
“A new MBU in Exeter means that we can provide the support and treatment that mums need, in a good, accessible central location, and that they can continue to be with their babies. This is a huge step forward for everyone involved in perinatal mental health in the south west.”