Ancora House is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) facility based in Chester that provides inpatient and day patient care (also known as Tier 4 services) for children and young people with severe and/or complex mental health conditions. It provides 26 beds plus an additional four beds within a specialist unit, day spaces, an educational centre, visiting areas and communal spaces. There are also secure gardens with horticultural and landscaped areas providing recreational facilities including outdoor exercise equipment.

‘Ancora’ a Latin noun meaning hope, refuge and support

Avril Devaney MBE, Director of Nursing, Therapies and Patient Partnership said, “Ancora House will play a huge part in our local health community, providing mental health services for young people across the region.”

Villicare, the Strategic Estate Partnership (SEP) between Ryhurst and Cheshire & Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP), project managed the facility and led the procurement of the £14.4m facility, providing CWP with significant cost and resource benefits that may not otherwise have been realised, including the additional provision of a specialist Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) from the outset.

Villicare managed an OJEU compliant, commercially competitive process to test the market and drive best value from the supply chain. This resulted in the establishment of a Project Team that fully understood and shared the common goals and values of Ryhurst  and CWP, whilst delivering excellent value for money.

Villicare appointed Gilling Dod as the project architect, Boex as Interior Designers and Eric Wright Construction as the build contractor of the facility.

“This is an important project for both Villicare and for the young people that will use the facility. The Team has shown real enthusiasm to design a facility that will provide a therapeutic, healing, and nurturing environment that is affordable for the Trust to both build and operate. Villicare has been established to assist the Trust in achieving optimum benefits from capital investments, such as the Tier 4 CAMHS project, and to challenge conventional design and construction practices.” – Chris Tonge, General Manager of Villicare.

Villicare and the Trust carried out extensive reviews of the proposed designs provided. The ‘norm’ in mental health design does not provide a solution that meets the needs of our young people’

Before commencing any design work a series of innovative design workshops were held to capture the views, aspirations, needs and safety requirements of the young people and CWP staff from the wards that were previously used for CAMHS.

Following a challenging process of design development, the Trust was satisfied that Villicare and the design team had met the criteria set out by the young people in the workshops.

The original design principles upheld as the ‘norm’ have now been well and truly replaced by the innovative.

The young people that now occupy the facility were involved in a broad variety of activities including:

  • Graffiti of the construction site hoarding
  • Interior design of the facility
  • Artwork that features in key spaces
  • External landscaping
  • External colour schemes
  • The design of the Ancora House logo

“Ancora House is a credit to the commitment of everyone involved in the project, but in particular to the Trust for their courage in daring to be different, and to the young people who have been so enthusiastic in helping and guiding us. This shows the real success that we can achieve when we engagecollaborate, and innovate.” – Chris Tonge, General Manager of Villicare.

Coral Ward is a 14 bed acute assessment ward for young people with mental health problems and high risk behaviour who can be admitted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It was previously known as Maple Ward at Bowmere Hospital.

Indigo Ward is a 12 bed inpatient unit replacing Pine Lodge, and specialises in intensive planned treatment packages for young people with the most severe and complex mental health problems, including those with eating disorders.

Ancora House School provides an on-site short stay education facility where the Trust works with the young people to develop a personalised learning plan to support their progress. Previously based at Pine Lodge, the school has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

 “As a young person who has experienced the need for inpatient care, I can see how much better Ancora House meets the needs of those young people with mental health issues. In my opinion having a positive environment to recover in is crucial and can ease the difficulty of being away from home at such a challenging time in your life.” – Bella Cope, CWP Young Advisor

The vision for Ancora House continues to develop and grow. The next stage will see innovative IT systems and equipment installed as part of the Villicare development programme for the Trust’s IT service. Villicare will also install these new systems throughout the remaining Trust facilities.

This will include giant touch screens in wards, allowing young people to share photos and video, play therapeutic games and produce digital art. An Ancora ‘App’ is in development that can be used by young people before, during and after their time at Ancora House.

Ryhurst and Villicare have made a commitment to support Ancora House into the future. A legacy fund will be established to allow young people using the service to have the same level of opportunity and experience as those young people involved in the development of Ancora House.

The fund will be used to support art led engagement activities such as graffiti workshops and design sessions, as well as horticultural and animal encounters that help in their recovery process.

 “Ancora House is a product of the efforts put in by young people through participation in developing services and CWP welcomes ongoing feedback from young people, families and their carers.” – Anjan Mandara, CWP CAMHS Clinical Director