Acute psychiatric inpatient service

Contact details

Saunders Unit phone: (02) 9382 0097

Saunders Unit email: 

We are located on Level 3 in C3SW in the Ainsworth Building at Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, High Street, Randwick NSW 2031

At the Saunders Unit, Sydney Children's Hospital, Randwick, we care for young people aged between 6 and 16 years who are experiencing acute emotional or mental health problems that cannot be managed in the community.

We provide specialist inpatient assessment, diagnostic ad therapeutic services catered to the young person's unique needs and facilitated within a safe environment. We value collaboration with other services to create a seamless patient journey, where care is provided at the right time, in the right place, and by the right team.

Saunders Unit is a secure (locked) ward with eight beds, where we strive to provide care in a least restrictive environment.

The Saunders Unit care team

The Saunders team consists of specialist mental health professionals including psychiatrists, doctors in training (registrars and residents), nurses, and allied health (psychologist, social worker, occupational therapists, physiotherapist, and peer support worker).

On admission, each patient is allocated a care coordinator from the Allied Health Team. A primary nurse is allocated to each patient each day. 

During the day, the young people attend school (during school term), physiotherapy, individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, arts therapy (art and music) and other fun activities.

The treatment program relies on active engagement from both the young person and their family. Our goals are to support each young person through the acute crisis that led to their admission and to connect the young person and their family with appropriate mental health care in the community when they return home.

If the young person is admitted with community mental health professionals already in place, we work collaboratively with that team to support the young person's transition back into the community and to maximise treatment outcomes.

For more information, including visiting hours, see our Saunders Unit brochure and welcome pack.

You can also see our video that explains more about the unit.

Admission criteria

  • The child or young person must be aged between 6 and 16 years.
  • The child or young person is medically well.
  • A recent (during the preceding 48 hours) comprehensive mental health assessment by a child and adolescent mental health clinician.
  • A recommendation by a Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist that inpatient care is necessary.
  • Less restrictive care options have been trialled and failed or considered and deemed unworkable.
  • Clear goals for a psychiatric admission are outlines.
  • Family members have agreed to work collaboratively with the Saunders Unit treating team.

Admission process

  • Each referral is assessed by the Saunders Unit team.
  • Each patient referral is renewed by the referring team every seven days of their application will lapse.
  • Admission is subject to bed availability; we do have a waitlist in place and priority is given to the most unwell patients.
  • Urgent referrals may be considered at other times at the discretion of the care team.

Referral process

Saunders Unit accepts referrals from specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health workers in the community who have assessed a young person and, in consultation with a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, believe they require an acute psychiatric admission.

Admission to Saunders Unit can be voluntary or involuntary.

After assessing a young person, a psychiatrist, psychiatric registrar or CAMHS clinician can complete the referral form and email it to Saunders Unit at

Saunders Unit is one of a number of inpatient mental health services for young people across the state of NSW. When making a referral, please consider the home address and age of your client and contact the mental health service most local and relevant to them. Other facilities are located on referral form.


  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
  • Nursing Unit Manager and nursing team
  • Clinical Psychologist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Social Worker
  • Peer Support Worker
  • Registered Arts Therapist and Music Therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Dietitian
  • Admin support