Three in four users (76 percent) of a pilot 'place of safety model' for London have backed the design and care they received since it was opened a year ago.

In the UK, people with mental health needs can be sectioned and taken to a place of safety if they are considered to have a mental health disorder that needs urgent intervention.

Delivering dignity

Campaigners want to see police cells and accident and emergency units play a smaller role as they can both add to the distress individuals are experiencing

The new centre, championed by London Mayor Sadiq Khan last year, has been "designed on the principles of openness, least restrictive practices and safety".

The new model of care, replaced four single occupancy HBPoS sites in Lambeth, Lewisham, Croydon and Southwark with one centralised 'Health based place of safety' at the Maudsley Hospital.

It was developed in response to the need to improve the accessibility and quality of care provided to individuals detained under section 136 (s136) of the Mental Health Act.

The previous settings were regarded as "undignified" and resembling police cells.

24 hour care

At the new location, there is a central nursing office and reception area surrounded by a communal space and a small team of staff work shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Five of the assessment rooms are located directly off the communal space. Three of these rooms have en-suite bathrooms. A further assessment room is larger than the others and has a separate wheelchair accessible bathroom.

One service user described the space as "more calm and settling" that previous destinations they have been taken to previously.

Another, also feeding back anonymously, appreciated having two rooms and "more space" than they had experienced in the past.

Patients receive an initial medical assessment immediately, rather than having to wait for clinical staff to attend, due to the availability of a resident doctor.

Sixty-four per cent of service users who provided feedback reported feeling safe in the centralised place of safety. By way of contrast, a pan-London service user survey carried out by Healthy London Partnership in early 2016 indicated that just 36% of patients felt safe in their surroundings in London’s sites.

Boring and lacking choice

However, suggestions to improve the new environment included more books and newspapers to alleviate boredom. Service users also commented on the lack of food choices and felt that the place of safety should receive the same meals provided on the wards.

Healthy London Partnership said: "The ambition is to have this model of care rolled out across London and transform care for those in mental health crisis".

"The feedback from those using this new model of care has been extremely positive and highlights the importance of having dedicated places of safety with professionals available around the clock, making the experience more respectful and tailored to individual’s needs," added Dr Matthew Patrick, Chief Executive, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.