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Hardware tested for safe use in mental health facilities

11 May Construction products are now being tested to assess whether they are safe to use in mental health care facilities.

Testing a door at the BRE
Testing a door at the BRE

A new product certification scheme, called Informed Choices, is being rolled out by the Building Research Establishment and non-profit group Design in Mental Health Network (DIMHN).

The aim is to minimise the scope for vulnerable patients to self-harm on the fixtures and fittings of a building, and to promote the selection of standardised approved products.

The certification scheme, the result of a five-year partnership between BRE and DIMHN, offers testing guidance for materials, fixtures and hardware for use within mental healthcare facilities. The hope is that it will simplify procurement and reduce costs for NHS trusts and other health authorities.

This is believed to be the world’s first standard to assess the safety of products used in mental health care and treatment facilities.

BRE chief executive 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.

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“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 said: “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.”

Health service managers are expected to welcome the initiative. John Atkins, head of major capital and property management for West London NHS Trust, said: “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.”

Architect Pete Stead, associate director at P+HS Architects, which specialises in healthcare and residential design, said: “The certification scheme will be invaluable in helping design teams, trusts, manufacturers and contractors deliver spaces that are fit for purpose and centred on recovery, allowing the environment to better reflect the needs of the care pathway. The guidance will also allow project teams to assess products and specify performance levels to suit acuity and thus deliver better value for the client.”

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