If designing hospitals is demanding, then designing mental health units is doubly so.
When architect Whylie Shanks designed the acute admissions unit at Dykebar Hospital in Paisley, patient safety and security were key concerns. Designed for Renfrewshire and Inverclyde Primary Care NHS Trust, the hospital has three single-sex and mixed-sex wards. In line with the latest hospital practice, all the patients have their own en suite rooms - 45 in total.
With such a large number of doors, the ironmongery was significant and key to the design of the hospital. 'The thing about the ironmongery was that the users were concerned patients could cause themselves harm, ' says Stephen Kerr, project director at Whylie Shanks. A number of elements in the design address this. Firstly, all doors in high-risk areas have the ability to open into the corridor, to prevent patients barricading themselves into their rooms. These are not conventional double-swing doors but have a double-action emergency-release stop made by Scotdor, the ironmonger for the project. This stop takes the place of the door check. The releases are used with Royde & Tucker emergency double-pivot hinges on the main bedroom doors and the internal bathroom doors. There are also vision panels in the doors that can be opened and closed by the locking system so that staff, but no one else, can look into the rooms.
Door closers from Geze have non-projecting arms, so patients cannot use them to hang themselves. The trust chose not to specify anti-ligature door handles, deciding that using ordinary lever handles would be an acceptable risk. The handles, from Scotdor's Spectrum range, are nylon, partly because nylon door handles are warmer to the touch and so better for people with circulation problems. But they were also specified for hygiene reasons. Research has shown that bacteria live for less time on nylon than on metal handles - the hospital 'super bug' Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), for example, takes 48 hours to die on stainless steel, is still going strong after 36 hours on anodised aluminium and brass, but dies within 24 hours on nylon. The handles are light-blue in colour, providing an acceptable contrast with the ash timber of the doors for people with impaired vision.
Leaderflush supplied the doors, which needed to be fire-resistant as all the bedrooms are fire-rated. Although they were supplied as doorsets, it is possible to take off the ironmongery and replace a single door, which has already proved necessary following a patient attack. There are 300 doors in total in the unit.
Another innovative feature is the keyless access-control system from Dom. All staff are issued with a keyfob, which works simply by waving it in front of the lock. The system does not have to be hard-wired and, if a keyfob is lost or somebody leaves, it can simply be reprogrammed. This system is used on the main access doors and all the patients' rooms. Other doors have conventional locks.
Whylie Shanks has considerable experience in hospital design, and is taking on ideas developed here to its next project, but the level of complexity of this project means that success could not have been achieved without the specialist expertise of Scotdor, which both supplied items from its own ranges and sourced them from elsewhere.