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36 PROJECT REPORT: HEALTHCARE BUILD & DESIGN


established to provide care for people who mainstream mental health services struggle to accommodate, including some who may have been placed in secure units. Patients’ conditions can see them being destructive or even violent, so caring for them means a standard staff-patient ratio of four to one, making them ‘high tariff’ by NHS standards. The design of spaces needed to be carefully considered to provide both a therapeutic environment and also one that is robust enough to withstand attack. The trust hoped that a carefully designed


environment could minimise adverse reactions and help users progress back to the community, ideally between 18 months and two years from admission. The highly specialised nature of this project made the client anxious however; it was building a unit costing £10m for 15 patients, with a design which would be hard to adapt to other uses, so it had to deliver on its business case. As project architect Paul Yeomans tells ADF, “Developing the brief was difficult, because the trust was nervous – what if their tender was taken away, they’d be asking ‘what do we do with this now?’” Part of the business case was that there


was a “correlation between the environment and positive patient outcomes,” however there was also very little precedent when it came to designing the unit. The only other similar provision in the UK is at the Maudsley Hospital in south London. The design team had to harness all of its own experience, which included an NHS autism unit in Caterham, Surrey, as well as seeking advice from the National Autism Society, and immersing itself in research and clinical consultation to identify the answers. Medical Architecture has a longstanding relationship with the trust behind the project, designing mental health schemes for 12 years, begin- ning with a £25m unit in Gosforth with Laing O’Rourke delivered through NHS Procure 21.


The practice’s strong relationship with the client was key to helping it develop the brief – as well as it having a Newcastle office, set up 11 years ago as an addition to its original London base partly to support the trust’s projects. For this scheme it was working with contractor Kier within the current NHS Procure 21 framework (Procure 21+), and it would prove to be one of the most testing projects Medical Architecture has tackled. Helping the client get to the point that “everyone was comfortable” with the design brief and attendant business case took two years.


WWW.ARCHITECTSDATAFILE.CO.UK ADF JANUARY 2018


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