Extra mental health beds for young people will make a ‘huge difference’

The Dragonfly Unit based at Carlton Court. Picture: NSFT.

The Dragonfly Unit based at Carlton Court. Picture: NSFT. - Credit: Archant

Health bosses have confirmed that £480,000 will be invested in extra mental health beds for children and young people in the region – and say the project will make a “huge difference” to the care provided.

MPs have expressed concern that the current provision for young people does not meet the need.

Now thanks to funding from NHS England, Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) will be able to increase its bed numbers at the Dragonfly Unit, near Lowestoft, from seven to 12, in a phased approach by January 1, 2019.

The new unit – rated as ‘Outstanding’ by the CQC during its inspection of the trust last year – first opened its doors as a seven-bed unit in September 2016, and has so far treated around 40 boys and girls, as well as supporting their families and carers.

Support is offered to girls and boys, aged from 12 to 18, from Norfolk and Suffolk, but as it is a nationally-commissioned specialist unit, the Dragonfly also accepts young people needing an urgent inpatient stay from the wider region and from around the country.

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Debbie White, NSFT operations director, said: “This increased investment from our commissioners is a real testament to the excellent work of the staff at the unit.

“This is a highly regarded service – one that CQC inspectors rated as one of the best of its kind in the country – providing safe, high quality and responsive care. We are delighted to hear that we will now be able to offer that excellent support to more young people.

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“These funds and extra beds will make a huge difference to young people in Norfolk and Suffolk with complex mental health needs as more young people than ever will be able to access the specialist help and support they need closer to home.”

Linda Stevens, Dragonfly clinical team leader, explained that the unit is set in modern surroundings designed with the young people’s needs in mind, including en suite bedrooms, school rooms, a gym to boost young people’s recovery, and a fully equipped therapy suite, alongside facilities for visiting families and carers.

Staff at the unit encourage their young service users to maintain connections not only with family, carers and friends wherever possible during their stay, but also with their schools and colleges.

She said: “Often when young people enter our service, they are in acute distress so maintaining their support network is vital in ensuring their stay is the least disruptive we can make it.

“And it’s crucial that we maintain good links with the local schools and colleges which young people attend before they come to us, so that when they return to the community, there is understanding about the young person’s mental health condition and the support is in place.”

Alex Barrett, occupational therapist at the unit, said: “We try to do anything we can to make the Dragonfly as safe and homely for our young people as we can, while working with them to get better, so their mental health can really improve in a well-cared for environment.

“Many of our service users are teenagers and it is important for their self-esteem and dignity that they maintain some privacy with their own rooms and have a calm space to de-escalate when they are unwell.

“But we also make good use of the larger environment, particularly the occupational therapy activities room and kitchen. Families can even bring food in and cook with their young person to share a family meal. And we have a room for families to stay overnight if necessary.”

NSFT will soon launch a campaign to recruit additional staff to the dedicated team, to include more nurses and care staff, catering staff and other multidisciplinary roles.

Click here for more information about the services provided by the Dragonfly Unit.

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