A hospital for mentally disordered offenders takes an unusual design approach


In safe keeping

This week in 1996, Building had a look inside a uniquely designed hospital for mentally disordered offenders in Northumberland.

In an innovative move, the new escape-proof quarters looked more like a pleasant housing estate, with a cluster of homes surrounding a communal courtyard - each with its own front door opening onto a front garden. Housing 30 residents, and built within the grounds of a post-war hospital in the middle of the countryside, the site appeared to be anything but a prison and, according to the medical director, that was the plan.

Martin Spring reported: “‘The creation of a home environment was fundamental to the brief,’ says the hospital’s medical direction, Dr Kenneth Day. With more than 100 highly motivated and trained staff, the unit sets out to foster trust in mentally disordered patients rather than applying drugs. The way to do this, Day argues, is to create a setting as much like home as possible.”
“Any medium-secure unit is also home for its patients in a more basic sense - a self-contained community where they must live, undergo treatment, work and play for many years without leave. An even bigger onus is put on the Kenneth Day Unit, where patients could stay for up to double the period envisaged for conventional medium-secure units.”