Scheme to test construction products used in mental health facilities

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BRE and Design in Mental Health Network have launched a world-first testing scheme for construction products used in mental health care facilities

The new certification scheme – ‘Informed Choices’ – is being rolled out by built environment specialists BRE and non-for-profit group Design in Mental Health Network (DIMHN), and comes as the UK marks Mental Health Awareness Week.

The certification scheme, the result of a five-year partnership between BRE and DIMHN, offers comprehensive testing guidance for materials, fixtures and hardware for use within mental healthcare facilities, helping to standardise products needed to mitigate common issues, for example, anti-barricade doors.

The scheme will ensure consistency in safety standards across the sector, supporting staff and the patients in their care.

It will also simplify procurement for NHS Trusts and other health authorities, removing excess costs incurred through the proliferation of different products and testing methods which currently exist.

Up until now, there has been no global standard to assess the safety of products used in mental health care and treatment facilities. By introducing this scheme, BRE and DIMHN aim to help protect people at their most vulnerable time.

To develop the scheme, BRE and DIMHN sought guidance from over 60 experts globally, led by a team in the UK.

‘Creating safer environments for patients’

BRE’s CEO, Gillian Charlesworth, said: “The pandemic has resulted in a sharp increase in people suffering from poor mental health.

“Now, more than ever, it is crucial that the construction, design and health industries work together to create safer environments for patients. BRE and DIMHN are proud to be at the forefront of this.

“As a world first, the scheme also represents the best of British innovation, with international manufacturers and healthcare providers looking closely at adopting this standard around the world.”

DIMHN chair, Philip Ross commented: “Creating space to allow clinicians to care for those with mental ill health presents a number of challenges for designers and specifiers: the importance of creating a healing environment that supports recovery, whilst coping with behaviours of people who are at their most distressed time.

“We’ve created these standardised tests to allow people involved in creating these spaces to make more informed choices about the products within the building – better product selection, with great architecture will keep patients and staff safe, and help foster better therapeutic relationships for a more sustaining recovery.

“With interest in this scheme from USA and Australia, we believe this initiative can help millions of people at their most vulnerable time.”

Head of major capital and property management for West London NHS Trust, John Atkins, added: “DIMHN and BRE need to be applauded in developing this scheme. The physical environment plays a major role in delivering successful clinical outcomes for vulnerable people in our hospitals suffering from mental health issues.

“The certification scheme will clearly become a valuable tool enabling Trusts to procure products which already have a specific testing certification, which in turn will save them time and money undertaking their own, very similar, testing.”

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