FC&A Magazine - Future Constructor & Architect

Phil Barsby, Business Development Director at Intastop and a board member of the Design in Mental Health Network, comments on the work being done by private companies to ensure the highest standards are achieved and the mental health sector is supported.


The challenges faced by staff endeavouring to keep mental health patients safe are wide and varied, yet some are able to be overcome through the design, manufacture and
use of preventative and assistive products.

Alarmingly, suicide rates in the UK continue to climb with 2020 recording 3441 deaths. Furthermore, as the global pandemic continues, the mental health sector is preparing itself for a need greater than has ever been seen in more recent times. Indeed, in a recent article in The Lancet, it is estimated that up to 10 million more people could call on mental health services across the board all attributed to the effects of lockdowns, social restrictions, financial and job worries and loneliness.

It is important therefore that the facilities provided to deliver the care in all settings are fit for purpose. For those in more acute care settings, patient safety has to be at the forefront of building infrastructure considerations and the innovation of new research and products can play a significant part in achieving this.

UK and US research drives innovation

In a drive to deliver the highest safety standards in products used in newly-constructed or refurbished clinics, hospitals and outpatient facilities, a recent collaboration has taken place between UK-based Intastop, InPro – an American-based company – and in partnership with a Midlands-based mental health trust. The research project was undertaken to determine the ligature risk presented by handrails that are present in many mental health facilities and identified that improvements could be made to ensure strict building safety standards in both the UK and the US were met.

Drawing on design expertise and front-line experience from NHS staff, a redesign of an existing handrail was undertaken eradicating pick points and wedge opportunities and resulting in a product that all but eliminated potential ligature options.

The updated ergonomically-designed handrail includes a top vinyl cover inset with an integrated aluminum channel with increased impact resistance and optional anti-bacterial coating. The new 1000BH handrail has a patent pending but has already passed rigourous testing and meets Equality Act 2010 and HBN 00-04 Guidelines.

Meeting the highest of standards

Whilst the rail is available for use in the UK, it was necessary for the product to pass the New York State Office of Mental Health (NYS OMH) standards pertaining to in-patient hospitals, a rigorous set of standards which exceeds the current standards in the UK. As a result, the 1000BH IPC Anti-Ligature Handrail is the only handrail in its product specification guide that has full certification, positioning it as the market leader.

Similar standards are yet to come to fruition in the UK but Intastop and representatives from all other parts of the care process in the mental health sector are working together to ensure these standards are created and adhered to.

In the future, we will ensure that the risk of suicide in mental health care facilities is diminished even further, protecting those that require specialised support and assisting staff in delivering the highest standards of care.

Intastop continues to be a market leader in designing, developing and manufacturing products to protect people, doors and walls. Recent investment will facilitate even more opportunities and, with a foothold firmly in the mental health solutions market in the UK, Intastop is also set to roll out its export strategy to further international markets.

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