Cornwall’s very first Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) unit is accepting its first patients.
The £11m unit run by Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) is now taking admissions of boys and girls up to the age of 18 and is located at the Bodmin Hospital site.
It has been commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement under a national strategy to move beds closer to the people who need them.
The new 14 bed unit means that for the very first time children and adolescents have access to specialist mental health beds in the county. This initiative delivers on NHS England’s commitment to reduce out of area placements for children and young people by improving access to beds whilst strengthening community services, so that any admission is for the shortest period of time.
It is reported that one in 10 children aged five to 16 have a mental health condition. Most young people who are experiencing mental health difficulties are treated and supported within the community, however sometimes for those with severe mental health problems, often with accompanying high risk, require specialist inpatient care.
Historically, these have only been available in units which are a considerable distance from homes, visits and support from family and friends, which play a key element in people’s recovery, especially in the case of children.
A fundraising appeal for the unit launched in September last year, which has seen in excess of £420,000 raised for ‘icing on the cake items’. Vital funds from community groups, local councils, Duchy Health Charity, Garfield Weston Foundation, National Lottery and Wooden Spoon have meant that CFT is able to provide additional and specialist items that will really make a difference to the lives of young people.
Items include a minibus; a multipurpose activity barn for team sports and performance arts; parental accommodation to allow families to stay over and make admission less unsettling; a café to allow visits with family and friends to happen in a friendly space; therapeutic gardens, and equipment for music, arts and cooking.
Additionally, Sowenna will feature a state-of-the-art sensory room to host innovative virtual reality (VR) environments that will be offered to young people during periods of emotional distress. Users will be able to touch, feel, walk or even lie down during their five minute long VR experience, which will be supervised by a clinician at all times.
Dr Barbara Vann, CFT Chair commented:
“Sowenna is the outcome of much hard work by many people but I would like to thank particularly the young people who have acted as our advisors from the very beginning of this journey; they have worked hard to bring their thoughts to fruition. We all still have much to do but Sowenna makes an outstanding statement about how much we value our young people and their families.
“I look forward to seeing how the innovative work, virtual reality for example, will develop with our patients in Sowenna.”
The Invictus Trust who are a charity which aims to support young people in Cornwall with poor mental health. They have lobbied for eight years for a first class in-patient unit for the young people of Cornwall. The Invictus Trust so far have contributed £87,000 to significantly enhance the offer at Sowenna by working with many committed local people and businesses to provide a minibus, equip the on-site cafe and start a virtual reality research project.
Steve Cowburn, Invictus Trustee, commented: "As a family who lost a vibrant 18 year old, we are delighted to have contributed to securing this wonderful facility for Cornish young people. However, we have long campaigned for an innovative 13-25 year facility and we will continue to make this case, in line with the NHS 10 year plan."
Inpatients will also benefit from a specialist education block within the unit. The Wave Multi-Academy Trust, who will form part of the specialist team, will be providing a comprehensive education programme tailored to each inpatient’s individual learning requirements whilst receiving treatment at Sowenna.
Dr. Liz Myers, CAMHS Consultant Psychiatrist for Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust commented:
“Admissions will be a mix of new patients and some young people returning from out of county. We will build up to full capacity over a number of weeks.
“We are thrilled to now have a local unit for Cornish young people so they can stay close to their homes and communities. Young people can stay connected with family and friends. This will enable swifter recovery and hopefully shorten the length of time they need to stay in hospital.”
Elizabeth O’Mahony, Regional Director for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the South West said:
“We’re delighted to see the Sowenna unit opening, as part of our strategy to bring in-patient care closer to home for people in the South West. For too long, young people from Cornwall have had to travel too far away from the family and friends who can be so important in their recovery.
“The new unit is the final safety net for our most-vulnerable young people. It’s important to remember, though, that our real priority as set out in the NHS Long Term Plan is to keep young people well and to intervene early if they need help, so ultimately we reduce the need for in-patient care.”