Woodlands mental health unit to reopen after suicides

A mental health hospital closed after two suspected suicides last year will re-open tomorrow.

The Woodlands unit, next to The Conquest Hospital on The Ridge, was shut down in October after the deaths of police sergeant Richard Bexhell, 49, and John Blair, 40, and police launched an investigation into Sussex Partnership trust which runs the facility.

That probe was dropped last month and after an independent review into the way the unit is run, several policy changes and a £500,000 refit, Woodlands will reopen on Tuesday.

Lisa Rodrigues, chief executive of Sussex Partnership, said: “This is the culmination of several months of listening, planning and hard work by everyone who has been involved in making the new Woodlands centre a reality.

“Although the old centre was given a clean bill of health following the very sad events last year, Sussex Partnership has been determined that we use the opportunity of the closure to take this service forwards. Thank you to everyone who has made the changes possible.

“We have been listening and actively encouraging participation from those who use our services, our nurses, doctors and other care staff, and the voluntary sector.

“We are especially delighted to be working with patient advocacy group Focus on Mental Health to set up and support a patients’ council made up of volunteers who have used services in the past.

“They will provide support and companionship to those who are staying in Woodlands and will monitor how it is run, ensuring that we keep our promises and helping to ensure that the patient perspective is always at the heart of everything we do there.”

When the hospital reopens, it will have a new modern matron to provide strong leadership, one consultant psychiatrist will oversee all acute admissions, and staff will undergo specialist suicide prevention training.

The crisis and home treatment teams will also be moved into the unit to bring different strands of mental health care under one roof.

Su Barnicoat, development manager at Focus on Mental Health, said: “There’s a fine balance to achieve between supporting someone to ‘live with risk’ and ‘keeping people safe’.

“It can only be achieved through the strong involvement of people who use the services.

“It is absolutely right that the people who use Woodlands services will be at the forefront of monitoring the new centre and will continue to scrutinise the quality of environmental provision and the ‘feel’ of the service from an inpatient perspective.”