While there is increasing provision nationally for neuropsychiatric care, against a background of the growing need for such facilities, surprisingly little is dedicated to female care.

Units which are male-only can be found across the country, but the provision for dedicated women’s facilities is, by comparison, low. Often, women needing this neuropsychiatric support are directed to hospital or care facilities, rather than receiving the specialist services they badly need.

This is being addressed with the opening of a new facility which, while based in the North of England, will have a national reach to help ease the pressure on the minimal resources across the UK.

Cygnet Newham House, the first women-only neuropsychiatric facility in Cygnet Health Care’s national portfolio, will provide 12 hospital beds for women aged 18 and over, alongside eight on-site transitional care beds in two bungalows.

It opens in July and will offer clinical-led neuropsychiatric care and treatment for women with conditions which manifest primarily through challenging behaviour – including neurodegenerative diseases, dementia, various types of ABI including substance-related brain injury and functional neurological disorders.

Placements at the unit vary depending on the need of the individual. Women can be supported in their recovery for a short period of time, or, in the case of those with progressive diseases, can be helped over a longer period as their symptoms develop.

Centre manager David Williams, who has worked in nursing for over 25 years, holding a number of director-level roles in specialist healthcare businesses, is keenly aware of the need for a specialist female neuropsychiatric facility.

“There is a significant amount of people with ABI who also have psychiatric issues and need this specialist care. There are some who are in a hospital environment for their assessment, treatment, rehabilitation, but they really need a more appropriate pathway, which we can provide. We want to build on the neuropsychiatric services we have already at Cygnet by making sure we now have female services in place.”

 Plans for the facility, devised over a long period, have been built on the successes of Cygnet’s other specialist units across the country, while also being mindful of the specialist requirements of a female-only service.  

“Women’s services need to be tailored, this is an important service and we have a culture that looks after women and has women at the heart of what we’re doing,” says David.

“I’ve worked in lots of female low secure services, which have all the standard quality and compliance measures in place, but there are differences between genders which we have to cater for.

“We are diverse enough to appreciate that we need a broad range of activities, such as sports. It’s very person-centred and this approach is embedded into our culture here.” 

The nursing team has been trained in specialist neuropsychiatric care, although several staff members already have extensive experience in this area.

Training and strategy have been supported by Cygnet’s approach of sharing information and examples of best practice within the group, as well as being influenced by other national neuropsychiatric networks.  

“We are offering holistic care but with specialised interdisciplinary teams which have specialised training. This is very important to us in being at the forefront of treatment and care, and in offering our person-centric approach.   

“Care pathways could be very different for different people, but we will have the capability to respond to that. This is where our specialism comes in and we want to understand how that person works. We need to look at the full pathway for the patient, how best to empower them and enable them to be as independent as possible and have the provision to do that.

“We will also be working with family members who remember the person prior to their brain injury or neuropsychiatric issue, and that valuable insight will feed into the care we provide.”

With the development of Cygnet Newham House starting long before COVID-19 was on the horizon, it is somewhat unfortunate that its opening coincides with the pandemic, which has presented a number of challenges along the way. 

However, says David, challenge can bring opportunity, with the team already adapting to new ways of working to ensure they remain on track for a July opening.

“Our grand opening day, which has been so long in the planning, is going ahead but with as minimal risk as possible. We are supplying masks and gloves and visitors can book in appointments, to ensure they can still visit and that they and our staff are protected. 

“It adds another layer of challenge but boils down to good infection control. We have support in terms of PPE and testing, so we feel well prepared but it does add an extra consideration. We need to make sure people are tested when they come in and are isolated if needs must, as we would if they were in the community, but we are prepared for that.

“Our recruitment has also been done via video calls, which has been a big change for us. Interviewing people has gone very well and non-attendance has been almost non-existent. It has in some ways been more personable doing it this way. We’ve been able to have a better conversation with people as it feels more informal, which can often get the best out of candidates.

“For the sector as a whole, I think there is the opportunity to change massively for the better. We can become more environmentally friendly and we can introduce more intellectual ways of involving people using technology. There are certainly opportunities to be taken.”   

For more information and referrals, please visit www.cygnethealth.co.uk