Some of the Westcountry's most vulnerable learning disabled women are now able to return to their roots as a pioneering new rehabilitation service opens.
Watcombe Hall, a 19th century Victorian villa set in 11 acres of land overlooking Watcombe beach in Torbay, has now been reopened as a women's-only care centre – one of very few in the South West.
The facility can accommodate 16 women with mild learning disabilities and will help rehabilitate those who may be suffering from traumatic pasts.
Previously owned by Devon Partnership Trust, the Watcombe Hall Hospital and annexe is set in the Watcombe Park conservation area.
It was bought by Care Principles, part of The Huntercombe Group – one of the leading independent specialist healthcare providers in the country, in 2007.
"We really considered the type of service that the region needed and it became apparent that it was a women's-only care service," said Mignon French, service development director for Care Principles in the South West.
"There are very few gender-specific services for women in the Westcountry and because of that we have women from Devon placed in service provisions all over the country – some even as far away as the North East.
"The idea and drive behind Watcombe Hall is to allow those women to come home."
From learning how to cook, to hairdressing and beauty therapy, the women who use the provision will be taught community skills, alongside their treatments, to prepare them for life in the community.
Phase one of the £2.5 million redevelopment – the annexe – opened yesterday and has beds for six patients who need more secure care. Four of those six beds, the first of which is occupied by a woman from Torbay, have already been reserved, with all of the beds being filled with NHS-funded patients from the region.
"Rehabilitation is based on things such as family contact, love, support, and many of the women receive that from their family," said Colette Warriner, the hospital's manager.
"So for these women to be able to return to the Westcountry, nearer to their families, is vital to their treatment."
Phase two – Watcombe Hall – is a less secure provision for women who are progressing well.
It is on track to open in February, and will allow another ten women to receive specialist treatment in the area.
On completion, the new hospital will have also created over 50 local jobs.