Duchess of Northumberland visits Northgate Hospital

The Duchess of Northumberland has opened a unique NHS service at Morpeth’s Northgate Hospital, tailored specifically to be as welcoming as possible to adults with an autism spectrum disorder.

The Mitford Unit, run by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), is a bespoke centre designed in partnership with service users, families, and NHS staff to offer time limited support at times of mental ill health.

The unit, a new home for an existing service, provides highly personalised inpatient care, should it be needed. At Mitford’s cenre is a concentrated focus on working together with service users, families and carers, so that people staying at Mitford can get home and back to their loved ones as soon as possible.

Her Grace said: “How touching it is to see such a caring and bespoke NHS service here in the heart of Northumberland. I am humbled to have been invited to such a warm, welcoming service. A service that holds person-focused, individualised care front and centre.

“I know people involved with Mitford are excited begin their journey together – growing a service that is shaped by the people it supports. This is a service with a strong vision, helping people who currently need inpatient care to get back home to their families as soon as possible.

“It is comforting and exciting to see service users, and their families and carers so deeply involved in developing such highly personalised care. That personal touch is what makes Mitford the special place it is.

“It is a great privilege to hear of the wonderful work being done by NHS staff, the people they support and their families. By working together, they are helping to grow NHS services in the North East that offer the very best support possible to our communities.”

After being introduced to NTW staff and partners, Her Grace was given a tour of the unit, which first began serving patients in November last year. She saw how areas, such as the sensory room, activity room and even the corridors, have all been designed to reduce anxiety and support patients.

She unveiled a plaque and officially opened the unit.

Specialist features at Mitford include:

  • Integrated technology throughout, including Skype.
  • Curved walls and seating areas and 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.

Work on creating Mitford started in June 2012, with people who use services, clinicians and architects working closely together to help make the design as supportive as possible.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) 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