Great white hope

A new cancer treatment unit at Chesterfield Hospital balances rigorous design for operational efficiency with a concern for patients’ holistic needs, to create a highly supportive environment. Sébastien Reed reports

ooking out across the Derbyshire landscape, a uniformly-white unit for cancer patients glows like a glacier, contrasting with the brick structures of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital. The new £10m NGS Macmillan unit combines a variety of treatment, testing and care services spread over 2,140 m2

L and two floors, with the

general aim of providing first-class, cutting- edge cancer care to individuals in the wider Chesterfield area. The building’s conjoined name is derived from its highest contributing financial stakeholders: Macmillan Cancer Support contributed a third of total funding for the project; and the National Garden Scheme who were a significant contributor, following an overwhelmingly successful appeal for funding.

Design lead on the project was Guy

Barlow, director of architects The Manser Practice. He says the facility’s design put the interests of patients and staff first, via a combined approach of honing operational efficiency and maximising patient comfort and freedom.

The architects were chosen to design the unit following a competitive tender, having designed and executed a new ward for the hospital in 2010 which was a “useful precursor” to winning this project, says Barlow. He explains that the hospital “had already seen our understanding of the area, and of what they really wanted.” At the project’s inception, a number of potential locations around the hospital site were contemplated, including refurbishments and extensions. However, the chosen plot’s ability to accommodate four crucial elements determined the final


decision – its adjacencies to appropriate hospital buildings; the scope for creating a drop-off area; proximity to patient and staff car parks; and the attractive views of local countryside.


In addition to a growing need for space, the central problem with the cancer care provision at Royal Chesterfield Hospital stemmed from the fragmentation of its services. As Barlow explains: “The main part of the hospital housed the oncology unit, then at the other end of the hospital, haematology was mixed in with other uses. You also had what you could call a Macmillan Centre (more like a ‘Macmillan room’) and palliative care, which were in different locations as well.”

The pharmacy and phlebotomy were also scattered across disparate parts of the existing hospital buildings, meaning patients had to navigate their way across the site in order to get to the appropriate facility. From a functional perspective, the key part of the outline brief was to unify all of these services to form an effective and expanded cancer care unit. Professionals from the hospital’s oncology, haematology, and palliative departments, plus representatives from Macmillan, formed a consultation group with the architects. Collective dialogue, as opposed to individual consultation, was vital to writing a new operational policy for the unit. The rationale behind this approach was not only to get the most out of the client, but also to identify any adverse spillover from one workstream to the other, as well as providing transparency through


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