A SPECIALIST brain injury unit in York that provides long-term care to people in the wake of an accident, assault or illness, will be officially opened tomorrow by the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope.

Dr Hope will return to York House at The Retreat, Heslington Road, where the new 14-bed unit is situated, three years after he officially opened phase one of the unit.

Phase one of York House, which opened in October 1999 and was officially opened by Dr Hope the following October, is a 14-bed unit that helps people from across the North of England with acquired brain injuries over a two-year period of treatment.

Phase two, which was created in a vacant ward and which opened for business in June, offers long-term - in some cases lifelong - care for men and women aged 18 to 64 who have an acquired brain injury and challenging behaviour.

Some clients in York House, run by the Disabilities Trust and The Retreat in partnership, may transfer to the new ward if they are thought to be suitable.

The majority of clients are funded by Primary Care Trusts and local authorities in partnership, although some are funded through insurance companies.

Mike McPeake, unit manager of York House, said each client's care cost up to £2,000 per week.

He said the high staffing levels which allowed for regular activities for clients, the extensive grounds and the techniques used to establish acceptable behaviour at the unit had already gained some dramatic results.

He said: "It became apparent that some of the people we were working with needed long-term care, whereas York House could only take people for two years.

"Phase two is about people who perhaps need looking after over many years. We should never give up hope with people even years after the injury.

"Since June, a couple of people have made remarkable progress. Now we are looking to move these people on to more independence, whereas a few months ago we thought we had reached optimum function. We are getting very positive feedback from family members who tell us that there is some hope now."

York House clients can progress to the Daniel Yorath House in Leeds, which has fewer staff and provides more independence, and there are five houses in New Earswick provided by Joseph Rowntree Foundation where clients can live with support from the Brain Injuries Rehabilitation Trust.

Updated: 11:10 Tuesday, October 21, 2003