Psychiatric intensive care units (PICUs) – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
Our PICU services aim to provide a ‘fast turnaround’ service where the focus is on helping young people reduce risks and improve their coping skills in the short term. A PICU is used where the level of a young person’s immediate risk to self or others is so great that they cannot be safely managed in a general adolescent unit (GAU) or a high dependency unit (HDU). A PICU aims to provide a safe and therapeutic intervention with a level of security that is directly linked to the level of risk.
- Provide containment and management of risks
- Offer intensive multidisciplinary assessment of mental health needs
- Provide recommendations on suitable future support and care pathways
- Move the young person on to a less restrictive setting as soon as possible
Effective outcomes in CAMHS PICU settings require a multidisciplinary team who have the skills and expertise to work with highly complex and challenging behaviours. We provide individualised pharmacological and psychological interventions that aim to meet the complex needs of our young people, reducing their risks and improving their mental state.
We recognise that being admitted to a PICU setting can be a frightening and worrying experience for the young person, their family and their carers. We make every effort to work collaboratively with young people as much as possible, bearing in mind risks, and we provide close support and communication with families and carers throughout a young person’s admission.
Outcome measures are reviewed at regular intervals to assess progress and readiness for step-down or discharge.
Who do we support?
This service is offered to young people between the ages of 12 and 18 who present with an acute deterioration in mental state, associated with a severity of risk to self or others, such that they can’t be safely managed in a GAU or a HDU.
Referrals and admissions
Admissions to our PICU service are possible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Working closely alongside referrers and NHS England case managers, our PICU services provide:
- A timely response to emergency admissions, usually within 2 hours
- A safe and containing setting for young people posing high levels of risk
- Discharge planning, commencing as soon as possible after admission
- Early identification and liaison with relevant community services
- Support for families and carers
- Identification of social needs
- Planned lengths of stay are no longer than 6-8 weeks as per NHS England guidance
Enquiries and Referrals
For further information on Priory services offered to the NHS, or to make a referral, please call our dedicated 24/7 customer service centre on 0800 090 1356. Alternatively, click here to submit an enquiry form
Call our 24/7 referral line
Priory is ready to take emergency placements 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for adult acute mental health, adult eating disorders, CAMHS and PICU. To make a referral please call us on
For more information about the child and adolescent services (CAMHS) that Priory offer, download our brochure.Get our brochure