A new model of mental healthcare at St Bernard’s Hospital

  • 25 Aug 2016

Thames Lodge, the new £60m Medium Secure Unit (MSU) at St Bernard’s Hospital opened in February 2016. It sits alongside the existing Medway Lodge Regional Secure Unit and Wells Adolescent Unit with one single entrance to create the Three Bridges Medium Secure Campus. ABC+D discovers more….

David Morley Architects designed the 8,000mÇ adult men’s unit in a series of five fingers to allow for a significant new area of secure garden space to be created between the fingers, including five ward gardens, a large central communal garden, a multi-use games area, horticultural therapy unit, planting, seating, exercise machines and outside table tennis tables. In addition, two roof gardens were designed with seating areas and trees. All of the 80 bedrooms within Thames Lodge benefit from views across the gardens.

Other features incorporated into the building to enhance the wellbeing and recovery of service users includes an onsite primary healthcare suite that provides a range of clinics including GP and dental services to help manage their physical health plus a fully equipped gym to encourage service users to lead healthier lifestyles, which is an important part of the recovery process.

Vivienne Mowatt, redevelopment programme director at West London Mental Health NHS Trust explained: “The Medium Secure Unit has been designed to be both safe and inviting, creating a therapeutic environment in which patients can recover and prepare to move on. The new unit contains five wards, all with different colour schemes chosen by service users, which will help people find their way around the new unit.

“As part of their recovery journey, patients will be asked to participate in at least 25 hours of meaningful activity a week. To help them do this, Thames Lodge houses a community hub – the Riverside Centre, also designed by David Morley Architects. This central zone offers a range of activities which will provide people with numerous work and training opportunities, all aimed at helping them to manage their condition and return to the community.”


There is also an education team at the Riverside Centre that is able to support service users gain qualifications, so when they go out into the community they are better prepared to access real life work or ongoing education.

High Street functions such as a bank, café, shop, barbers and workshop, have been included to normalise life for long stay service users. Art has been integrated into the building in the development of the colour scheme and way finding strategy. Also, work by an artist developed in consultation with service users has been used throughout the building.

In addition, the design incorporates staff work areas at the heart of the ward to accommodate multi-disciplinary team working, as well as private areas close to the wards.

Additionally, two child family visiting rooms have been included in an area away from the ward, to allow patients to meet with their families including their children. The rooms have been designed to be friendly, warm and inviting and incorporate art, an outside view, a kitchenette and baby change facilities. They also contain a TV, games consoles, different games, puzzles and books for children of all ages. 


Thames Lodge achieved a BREEAM Excellent status and was designed with the capability to be connected to a site-wide energy centre in the future. A ground source heat pump and PV panels were also installed providing renewable energy sources.

In short, Thames Lodge’s new ways of working, modern fit-for purpose building, specially selected equipment and calming outdoor spaces are already benefiting service users, as voiced by a service user on Berry Ward: “There is enough room for your mind to settle, you can go to your bedroom to turn your TV on or read a book; it’s very clean and spacious and safe. The garden looks magnificent, in the summer you can imagine lying down and finding a piece space for and quiet. It’s a good start for anyone that wants to change their life around.”

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