The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has reopened at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) King’s Lynn following a modernisation and refurbishment project (see photo).
The unit, designed by LSI Architects, has been refurbished in line with the latest standards of patient care, including with improved fire safety, a new ventilation system, and air-conditioning. Importantly, LSI Architects explains, the project included ‘the vital work’ to put the necessary failsafes in place in the unit, as part of the Trust’s rolling programme of work to maximise safety in RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) areas of the QEH.
The architects said: “The design responds to the four different levels of care required in a NICU department, defined within HTM 09-03, each with different requirements in terms of space and services.”
A curved staff reception desk sits at the unit’s centre, with glazed screens into each cot room to improve passive supervision and staff’s ability to interact with and oversee the unit from a central base, as well as to filter more natural light into the rooms. A separate ‘safe space’ allows parents to briefly step away and ‘have a breather’, or meet away from the baby’s side in privacy and hold an informal conversation, or even for staff and the families themselves.
“Services have been carefully co-ordinated to meet all necessary requirements, but also to retain as much of the existing natural light as we possibly could, which has been of real benefit,” explained LSI Architects. “Tiles that mimic blue skies in the combined cot room also add a level of relief in what is a landlocked room.”
Amanda Price-Davey, head of Nursing and Midwifery for the division of Women and Children at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re delighted that our new NICU meets the latest standards of patient care, and the work to install failsafes in the unit is a vital element to maximising safety across the hospital. There are some significant benefits for our parents and babies too, including wider access to allow new mothers not well enough to easily mobilise to come across to the unit on their hospital bed, to spend time with their baby.”
Matthew Reeve, architect at LSI Architects, commented: “We wanted to ensure that the design made the unit a more pleasant environment to be in, particularly for those parents in the department for extended periods, and staff working within the unit too. We have thus been very careful in our consideration of finishes, materials, and colour palette, and again looked for any opportunity to introduce natural light.
“Through the client engagement process we were able to understand more about how neonatal care is provided, so we could better understand where our attention as designers should be focused. The result is a unit that supports the staff in providing such important care.
We know parents within the unit are very likely to be experiencing a high level of stress, and peaks and troughs in emotions; thus delivering a calm environment to do what we can to help was important to us.”
A new maternity bereavement suite, also designed by LSI Architects, has also been completed at the hospital. The Butterfly Suite offers a dedicated space to support parents who have experienced the loss of their baby, either during pregnancy, or shortly after birth. The new suite opened in July, and is now located away from the main Maternity Unit to provide bereaved parents with space away from the place where other parents will be in labour or giving birth. The design provides a visual difference from a maternity ward to allow for these experiences to sit separately. It comprises a living area, kitchenette, bedroom, nursery, and en-suite, all in a dedicated space, but close to the department to allow immediate response and care from staff.
The architects say that the suite has been designed ‘to allow the clinical elements to disappear into the background as much as possible’. A bespoke folding bed allows medical equipment and supplies to be hidden away when not in use. Natural finishes and colour, including artwork inspired by nature on feature walls, have been incorporated into the scheme. The project was funded through the support of the local community and the Trust’s own QEH Charity, raising a combined £250,000.