We are a regional inpatient CAMHS unit for 13-18 year olds who were previously based in two separate wards across Chester in unsuitable facilities, a converted house and a former older persons ward in an adult hospital. After being granted funding in a joint project with CWP and Ryhurst we started on the journey of building a new purpose built hospital. We started with meeting with the young people and exploring what their needs were in a hospital and drawing up a wish list, all ideas were included and even the more imaginative were drilled down until we found what the young people really wanted. The young people met with the architects and design team and worked on ideas together and created their own models in design workshops with the design team.
What We Did
We are a regional inpatient CAMHS unit for 13-18 year olds who were previously based in two separate wards across Chester in unsuitable facilities, a converted house and a former older persons ward in an adult hospital.
After being granted funding in a joint project with CWP and Ryhurst we started on the journey of building a new purpose built hospital. We started with meeting with the young people and exploring what their needs were in a hospital and drawing up a wish list, all ideas were included and even the more imaginative were drilled down until we found what the young people really wanted. The young people met with the architects and design team and worked on ideas together and created their own models in design workshops with the design team.
The young people were involved in all aspects of the process, from the initial site visit when they ran the perimeter of what was then just a grassy field to multiple site visits to see if their plans were being followed.
As part of TakeOver Day the young people took over the site and ran a site meeting, held a Q&A session in the new build and choose the colours and painted the bedrooms.
The young people worked on colour schemes designing thier own mood boards and coming up with new and exciting concepts.
As well as being an integral part of the design and build sessions were run to explore different careers within the building industry and sessions were run weekly on site, the most popular being the architect session and learning how to build 3D images.
The young people held “Chairfest” in which they were able to try and choose what furniture they wanted in the new hospital.
Thr young people also ran a competition to name the new build with the winning entry coming from a former inpatient, Ancora from the Latin (we are a Roman city) meaning hope, refuge and support. Competitions were also ran to name the two new wards and Indigo and Coral were the winning names.
The young people also learnt new skills graffitting the hoardings around the building site and designed and painted the large wooden boards, they were even keen to show off and teach their skills to local MP Chris Matheson when he came to visit the launch of the project.
The young people also made a video to show young people who were unable to visit the site. so many young people were involved in the project over the 2 years in so many different ways.
We finally moved into Ancora House in September 2016 and have seen such a difference to the service we provide, the amount of outside space including horticultural therapy garden where the young people are growing their own vegetables, the addition of rabbits in the garden to help with therapy, forest schools have now started in the country park and the young people are able to get out in the woods and learn bushcraft and other skills.
We have a gym in the building and are able to offer individualised health and fitness programmes to help with physical as well as mental health.
We have a sports pitch which the young people are able to play 5 a side football, badminton, tennis, netball and basketball on.
The short stay school is now in the same building allowing access for all, the state of the art facilities are equipped to A level standard and some of our young people are currently sitting their GCSE’s and A-Levels in Ancora House.
The Den is an amazing space designed by the young people as a multi-purpose space for film nights, relaxation sessions, mindfulness and other activities.
The Sanctuary is a space for meditation and includes a teepee, sensory lights, aromatherapy oils, ambient music and is widely used by the young people.
The building has so much space and light and really needs to be seen to be really understood.
Wider Active Support
As well as the young people and parents/ carers were worked with the Young Advisors and in particular YA who had been through our service. They were able to attend meetings, helped launch the project, ran focus groups and even made a promotional film for the hospital.
From day 1 we involved young people, parents and carers and staff and highlights of their suggestions include the visitor areas including reception and visitor rooms, the bedrooms which the young people designed mood changing lights so they can personalise their space and have now taken it a step further and are using the lights as traffic light signals to communicate to staff how they are feeling.
Staff were keen to help with improving observation without feeling intrusive and the shape of the corridors and location of the staff base help overcome these issues.
Looking Back/Challenges Faced
In the design of such a light and airy space we did not think of the issues of sound and although this is being addressed in hindsight we could have thought about the impact during the build.
We still have regular monthly meetings involving the project leads and in the daily community meetings young people can raise any issues.
Evaluation (Peer or Academic)
As yet a full evaluation has not occurred and we will reflect at the end of the first year. Although from feedback we can see it is making a positive difference to the mental health of the young people
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