A new in-patient unit to support adults with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is opening at Northgate Hospital in Morpeth.

The public and media will this week get the chance to preview the new Mitford unit, which will be run by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), one of the country’s biggest mental health and disability trusts.

Members of the public are invited to come and see the new unit during two open days. The first will be held on Thursday, 17 November between 9am and 7pm. The second will be held on Friday, 18 November between 9am and 4pm.

Mitford has been purpose-built, with design features specially introduced to make it as supportive and as caring a place as possible for people with autism who need highly specialist in-patient care.

Staff working there will provide timely and bespoke support, so people staying at Mitford can get back home to their families as soon as possible.

Mitford clinical nurse specialist, Helen Percival, said: “Mitford will offer a unique, personalised service, with all care tailored to people’s individual needs. We will adapt the service around the patients’ needs, rather than them fitting into the service.

“This means we will be working very closely with individual families to make sure that they are fully involved in and in touch with their loved one’s care.

“The entire design of Mitford has been centered around people with autism, with low-stimulus environments and very specific features to help reduce anxiety for the people we support.”

Ward manager Pam McIntyre said: “We’re all incredibly excited to start welcoming people to the new unit, which will see the North East providing one of the most tailored environments in the country for adults with an autism spectrum disorder.”

These specialist design features include:

–          Technology that enables patients to use Skype so they can be brought into meetings about their care, even if they are unable to attend in person.

–          Curved walls and seating areas throughout to help people move about the unit with ease.

–          Doors and cupboards that can be hidden into walls to create smooth lines and reduce anxiety.

–          Precise temperature and lighting controls for each living area to adjust the environment depending on patients’ needs.

–          Sound-proofing throughout the unit to help reduce noise sensitivity.

–          High ceilings and windows to maximize natural light.

All 15 bedrooms are en-suite and can be made “low stimulus” – meaning no protruding objects or distractions, and they have been built with smooth lines to help reduce patients’ anxiety.

There is also a sensory room, activity room, and therapy room, as well as a garden area, multi-faith room and a sanctuary and quiet space. A visitors’ room will provide a comfortable space for people to meet with their families and artwork has been especially commissioned for Mitford, which features scenes of the Northumberland coastline.

Work on creating Mitford started back in June 2012, with people who use services, clinicians and architects working closely together to help make the design as user-friendly as possible. £10million has been invested in the unit, which will care for people from across the North East and other regions in the UK.

Mitford will provide support for people who have extremely complex needs and display challenging behaviours when their needs cannot be met by local assessment and treatment services.

Autism spectrum disorder is a condition that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.  It is estimated that one in 100 people in the UK has a form of ASD.