Mental health unit is an example to others, says star at official opening

CUTTING THE TAPE Actress Sheila Hancock officially opens The Limes, St James' Hospital, Portsmouth Picture: Allan Hutchings (110365-646)
CUTTING THE TAPE Actress Sheila Hancock officially opens The Limes, St James' Hospital, Portsmouth Picture: Allan Hutchings (110365-646)
Grace Hutton, nine, from Cosham, is having her head shaved in memory of her mum Paula (in the picture frame)

Cosham girl, nine, to have headshave in mum’s memory

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ACTRESS Sheila Hancock opened a multi-million pound unit for people with mental health problems – and said it should set an example for the rest of the country.

Ms Hancock, who is the chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, said she was delighted to officially open The Limes at St James’ Hospital.

The unit, commissioned by NHS Portsmouth and run by Solent Healthcare, is designed specifically to put people suffering from dementia and depression at ease.

It has 36 en suite bedrooms, huge windows, a sensory garden, a hairdressing salon and an arts and crafts room, among other features.

It has been running since November 2009 but yesterday saw its ceremonial opening.

Ms Hancock, widow of TV actor John Thaw, said: ‘It is absolutely stunning – Portsmouth should be incredibly proud to have an initiative like this.

‘People from around the country will come to see it as an example of how you can accommodate people with difficulties in life and people getting old.’

Ms Hancock said: ‘The architecture is very well thought through to helping those with dementia.

‘The place is full of light, which stops them feeling claustrophobic. There are lots of things to do. They’re not just locked in a room in front of a telly and forgotten about which is shameful, but still happens all over the country.’

She added: ‘I’ve suffered from depression in my life, and I’ve had experience of caring. I’ve had two husbands who have died from cancer, and my mother.’

Maggie Vilkas, who manages The Limes, said: ‘Everything we do here is about dignity, respect and compassion.

‘Today is a celebration of the excellent work that has been achieved here.’

Richard Hibbert, chairman of NHS Portsmouth, added: ‘We’ve always believed that older people with mental health problems deserve the best facility we can provide.

‘We don’t always look after our elderly as we should. But one thing is for certain – we will all be there one day.’