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Wonford House MBU opens

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in Mental health, News on 19th April, 2018

Following a period of extensive refurbishment, we are delighted to announce that our temporary Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) is now open.  

The MBU has four bedrooms and a staff team of around 30, including doctors, nurses, nursery nurses, occupational therapists, psychologists, peer support workers and healthcare assistants.  Its facilities include a dining room, large lounge, baby changing and feeding areas and a dedicated garden area. 

The team is now working with our own inpatient and community teams, as well as perinatal teams from wider Devon, Cornwall and Somerset to identify women who may benefit from a spell of care in the MBU - and we are expecting our first admissions within the next few days.

The MBU team will be also be inviting vulnerable women to the unit to show them around and familiarise them with the environment – to help allay any concerns they may have about being admitted.  The team will also continue to familiarise themselves with the new facility and equipment through clinical simulations and scenario testing.

Many members of staff took the opportunity to have a look around the new unit a few weeks ago, as did Melanie Walker and members of our Executive Team – and the feedback has been excellent.  The MBU is unrecognisable from when the refurbishment work began several months ago.

Dr Jo Black, who is the National Clinical Director for Perinatal Services at NHS England as well as being our own Perinatal Lead, says:  “This is a major milestone for perinatal mental health services in the south west and a hugely proud moment for everyone who has been involved with the project.  We have done a great deal to extend and improve community perinatal services over the last few years and we now have our own specialist inpatient unit to support new mums with serious mental health needs, alongside their babies.  Up until now, mum and her baby have had to be admitted to an MBU in another part of the country, or mum has had to be separated from her baby and admitted to an adult psychiatric ward – neither of which is satisfactory.

“It’s a huge step forward in terms of the service we are able to offer locally and means that many mums and their families will now get the care they need far closer to home.  The new unit looks fantastic and we have created a warm, welcoming and therapeutic environment for everyone.  We will be using all of the learning and experience from this interim unit to inform our thinking and practice when we open the brand new eight bed unit.  This will be another incredibly exciting development for all of us.

“Speaking from NHS England’s perspective as commissioner of the service, this means we’re now delivering on our commitment to increase the number of MBUs around the country. I’m very pleased to say that Exeter is the first of four new units that will bring inpatient care much closer to home for women in under-served areas.  This is the first part of a £16m national investment in new MBUs by NHS England.

Hannah Fieldhouse, Ward Manager, adds:  “It’s difficult to put into words how exciting it is to finally open our doors to women and their families who need our support. It’s been a real team effort and, although we have had some minor hitches as we have approached the opening, it is wonderful that the region now has its own MBU.

“The list of people to thank is enormous, but I would like to acknowledge, in particular, the contribution of our wonderful parent stakeholders – who have helped to shape so much of what we are doing and have been full of passion and enthusiasm at every stage.  Also our colleagues in psychotherapy for moving out of their home to allow the unit to be built; our  midwifery, paediatric and health visitor colleagues and the perinatal teams in Somerset, Plymouth and Cornwall for their willing collaboration and support throughout the project. HR and Workforce have also been brilliant with the recruitment of our staff team and training.  Thank you to everyone who has been involved, from all of us on the MBU team!”

The groundwork for the permanent eight bed MBU is now well under way.  Last week our Chair, Julie Dent, conducted the ceremonial turf-cutting with representatives from our construction partner, Interserve (see photo).  The unit is scheduled to open next spring and we will be conducting a great deal of work to ensure a smooth transition from the temporary MBU to the permanent one.

You can see the welcome booklet for the Wonford House MBU here. It provides practical and supportive information about staying on the unit for women and their families – and has been produced with input from members of the parent stakeholder group. We are also producing a short video tour of the unit, offering an alternative way to view the MBU if mum is unable to visit us.

The ward team on the MBU can be reached on 01392 539100.

Pictured: Julie Dent, CBE, Chair of Devon Partnership NHS Trust (centre) with representatives from Interserve, 
our construction partner for the new MBU.

One of the MBU bedrooms.  The quilts were hand-made and donated by Lindsay Winterton, who works in the Programme Management Office (PMO) at Wonford House.  Julie Nunn, who also works in the PMO, crocheted baby blankets for each of the rooms.

MBU Ward Manager Hannah Fieldhouse (right) with Nursery Nurses (l-r) Amanda Hewitt, Kim Kitts and Heidi Gilbert.