The trust provides short break services for children and young people with learning disabilities in County Durham and Teesside.

The County Durham service is provided in Holly Unit at West Park Hospital in Darlington.

Holly Unit, West Park Hospital,


Tel number: 01325 552037 

About the service

The children's short break service provides 24 hour inpatient, intervention based care on a planned and emergency basis for children and young people with learning disabilities, complex needs and/or challenging behaviours.

The service is flexible and safe to respond to the children's needs and offers short breaks, following an agreed intervention plan and support to carers.

The short break is provided in a welcoming environment on an individual basis designed to meet the needs of each child or young person and to minimise the impact that caring for a child with special needs has on families and carers.

Referrals for assessment are accepted for children and young people who have a learning disability and:

  • Challenging behaviour
  • Mental health condition associated with epilepsy
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Autism
  • ADHD
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Toileting programmes
  • Attachment disorders
  • Mental illness.

For children and young people a short term break from their family can provide a positive experience for them by enabling friendships to form with other children, encouraging social activities, new experiences and supportive relationships with carers.

Important features of the service are:

  • The child or young person is involved in their own care

  • One to one time with staff – protected therapeutic time as shown in the intervention plan

  • Involvement of parents/carers in the intervention plan with appropriate information provided

  • Ongoing clinical risk assessment

  • Accessibility of age appropriate information – particularly for sensory impairment

  • Access to culturally appropriate food where required

  • Social inclusion is promoted including helping young people maintain contact with education

  • Access to acute medical services if needed.

Therapies or interventions

All interventions are agreed by the multi-disciplinary team including families and children, where possible.

Clinical interventions are monitored via the ward staff, challenging behaviour team and community services to provide holistic person centred interventions to the child, young person and families.

The team

The ward team has registered nurses and health care assistants.

Psychiatry, psychology, speech and language, and behaviour therapists are provided by community teams.

How to access the service

All referrals to the service come via learning disability child and adolescent mental health service (LD CAMHS) community teams.

After referral to the service a planning meeting will be arranged with the team, parents and carers, and the child or young person.

Each child or young person will be allocated a named nurse, who along with the community nurse and relevant others, will agree the intervention plan. The plan will form the basis of the admission and subsequent stays. There will be on going assessment of this plan and regular multi agency reviews.

The care plan is developed after gaining relevant information from the family and other professionals who may be involved with the child. The plan will contain all the relevant information on the child to enable the ward staff to provide the best possible care during their stay at the Holly Unit.

At a pre-discharge meeting a discharge plan or extension to care plan is agreed.

About the ward

The Holly Unit is a five bedded, single storey unit based on West Park Hospital site in Darlington.

It is part of the wider learning disability child and adolescent mental health service.

All bedrooms are en suite with shower facilities and a separate bathroom designed for children who have physical disabilities and complex health needs.

The living room and sensory rooms are spacious and there are many areas to allow the children to have play space.

There is also a large garden to the rear of the building which allows outdoor play. The layout of the building allows flexibility when planning for the needs of the children.

There is also an activity room, quiet area, kitchen area and play room within the unit.

Activities on the ward

A range of activities are available for children on the ward, including social interaction and engagement, daily living skills, art and crafts, play, sensory activities, water play and social outings.

Visiting times

Holly ward has open visiting, with no set visiting times.