A MENTAL health unit is undergoing more changes with the opening of two new wards.

Woodlands is based in the grounds of Conquest Hospital in St Leonards and run by the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust.

It hit controversy back in 2010 when it was temporarily closed and Sussex Police launched an investigation following the deaths of three patients.

Three people took their own lives while under the care of the unit.

They were Sussex Police sergeant Richard Bexhell, 49, John Blair, 40, and Suzanna Anley, 35.

Police were considering whether the trust could be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter but in the end the investigation was dropped with no further action.

Staff at the unit were taught how to identify suicidal tendencies in patients and half a million pounds was spent redecorating the wards before the unit reopened in July 2010.

The centre provides inpatient care for adults with acute mental health conditions.

The two newly opened wards are split into male and female.

The female Abbey Ward has 15 beds and the nine-bed male ward is called Castle.

The idea to change the layout at Woodlands, from one mixed ward to two single sex wards, came from staff working in the department.

They felt the changes would make a safer and improved therapeutic environment for both patients and staff.

Matron Liz Discombe said: “I’m really excited we got the opportunity to develop the service we provide at Woodlands.

“Having single male and female wards means we can provide specialised quality care and treatment to both men and women whose needs are often so different.

“Generally women who come in to our service may feel especially vulnerable or have families and find it difficult to be away from them.

“When men come to us they may be single, divorced or have misused substances.

“We feel the care, treatment and environment our patients need to get well again is better suited to be provided separately.

“This is because we can tailor the needs of each individual in a better way.

“Patients will still have the opportunity to mix in communal areas if they want to or they can stay within their own ward.

“We’re looking forward to providing workshops on the wards and out in the community.

“The aim is to identify other areas which will help our patients get better and return to the community.”

The new ward names were decided using a poll on Twitter.

Staff, partners, the patient council and the general public could vote for their favourite.

In the latest Care Quality Commission inspection report, Woodlands and the trust’s 11 other adult inpatient wards were found to require improvement.

Overall the trust has also been given a rating of requires improvement.

Its care and responsiveness were found to be good by inspectors while safety, effectiveness and leadership need improving.