More about mental health

Every component part of the window came under scrutiny. The frame and glazing itself was an important issue but so to were the more secondary elements like the glazing gasket.

It was important we designed a system that had wraparound glazing so it could not be removed by the occupant. We also designed the gasket so it was perforated to ensure it broke into harmless pieces if there was an attempt to remove it. The clinical team were also instrumental in devising test procedures.

“We always said the window had to withstand attacks with any items a patient could reasonably be expected to get hold of so as well as the cutlery, that included pieces of furniture, a fire extinguisher, pool cues, and a snooker ball in a sock,” said Mr Ord.

The fire extinguisher test required the window assembly to survive a sustained attack with a 6.5-litre extinguisher for 15 minutes. A severely disturbed patient can sustain such a prolonged attack but most people tire after a couple of minutes and so the product test required a relay of five volunteers.

The trust also wished to test the windows to extremes, and outside the usual patient accessible implement range to test that of an assisted escape. Having conducted the accepted test criteria, the trust personnel also used jemmies and a crowbar on the window and frame.

While some distortion took place, the integrity of the window remained intact after a near 30-minute attack test.

The new window also had to incorporate a sliding contraband mesh – a perforated steel screen which would automatically close across the frame as the glass pane was opened.

The size and spacing of the perforations were critical as it was essential the screen provided the required security without blocking out too much light or air. The optimum configuration for this project proved to be a 3mm diameter hole at 5mm centres – too small to pass illicit materials or substances through but large enough and numerous enough to be able to see through it.

As John Ord said, the integrity of the window design is vital to the security of the whole development, approximately half of whose 312 beds will be in the medium-security ‘forensic’ wing of the hospital.

The aim was to amalgamate the experience of the trust clinical staff with that of the window manufacturer in arriving at a solution (in this case our horizontal sliding window) where security was paramount yet a more normal image is portrayed and not that of an oppressive or custodial regime.

Working on a development project is always a learning experience but this scheme was a real eye-opener for all concerned. Roseberry Park taught me and my colleagues at Kawneer a lot about the design process but more importantly, it challenged my assumptions about mental healthcare.

Never before had I been required to delve so deeply into the needs of the end user and to see the final product from their point of view. It’s changed the way I do my job.