A new generation of hospitals where better outcomes are built into the foundations

Stuart Guest, business development manager for health technology experts, Ascom UK, discusses the changes he has seen in the 30 years he has been working within healthcare infrastructure projects. Stuart also addresses the recent shift towards more collaborative working between NHS Trusts, suppliers, architects, and contractors inspired by the New Hospital Programme (NHP).

November 2, 2022

Despite its slow progress, the NHP is inspiring a new generation of hospitals. More than helping to just create new hospitals, the programme has gone some way to further crystalise a more collaborative approach to both the construction and design of new hospitals and the redevelopment of existing sites. 

Now, NHS Trusts are working more closely with suppliers, architects and contractors. They are educating them about the environments and technology they need to be able to deliver better patient outcomes, while also making the lives of health professionals easier. 

The Trusts are also turning to these same stakeholders for solutions to the range of new challenges they face in the wake of the pandemic such as critical staffing levels, effectively ripping up the blueprint for a traditional hospital build or redevelopment. 

Ripping up the old hospital blueprint

Take for example the move from Nightingale-style wards to private rooms for patients. Although commonplace in Europe for several years, single-patient rooms were a rarity outside Intensive Care Units in the UK until the Covid-19 pandemic, when additional infection control measures were needed. The shift helps provide greater levels of privacy and dignity to patients. But it also presents a challenge for the NHS. The most critical being - how can frontline staff, who are already depleted in numbers, care for patients from behind closed doors? 

Helping architects involved in the design of new hospitals understand this challenge is key. This isn’t just about turning what was previously open-plan ward space into bedrooms. More than that, it needs to factor in clinical workflows and the technology required to power this change in care delivery.   

Deeper stakeholder education and collaborative working is integral. So much so, that its value is bleeding into the tendering process, with the expectation that suppliers now have a good understanding of workflows, the NHS’s digital transformation plans, its carbon-zero pledge and the Long-Term Plan, including the latest policy addition, Our Plan for Patients.

Now, NHS Trusts are working more closely with suppliers, architects and contractors. They are educating them about the environments and technology they need to be able to deliver better patient outcomes, while also making the lives of health professionals easier.
Stuart Guest
Business Development Manager, Ascom UK

Creating environments for digitally enabled care 

Enabling Trusts to be digitally enabled is a critical element of the NHP. 

Lance McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow – one of the eight pathfinder hospitals within the NHP - said: “We’ve got to think about how the design of hospitals should change to reflect the impact and efficiencies that come from technology. It is crucial that we don’t build yesterday’s hospital for tomorrow’s technology”.

And on the New Princess Alexandra Hospital’s website it also makes specific reference to the collaboration between clinician and architect.  

“Led by our clinicians and an outstanding team of architects, the design of the New Princess Alexandra Hospital will be a far cry from a traditional district hospital…a beacon for health for the whole community, set in a therapeutic landscape. An exemplar of modern architecture that will deliver the best setting for our people to deliver the best care. In short, a hospital like no other.” 

Stakeholders working more closely together are enabling that to become a reality. Trusts know the challenges they face and they are turning to health technology experts for solutions. 

Trusts need those involved in the creation of new hospitals to understand how technology can benefit patients, healthcare outcomes and influence clinical workflows. How virtual wards need to operate, including what space within a modern hospital needs to be flexible. They need to understand the patient journey, from the technology supporting them within the walls of a hospital to remote monitoring technology and health wearables once the patient is home. 

It's a shift we at Ascom have witnessed. We’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of architects and contractors who are now keen to understand how our technology provides an end-to-end healthcare solution, how the technology integrates into wider software and medical device hardware, and how it can be scaled up and evolve. All with the aim of understanding how the technology and the built environment can work in perfect harmony for the NHS.  

A unique opportunity to transform NHS infrastructure 

When the NHP was first announced, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the aim was to build 40 new hospitals by 2030 and to be ‘the biggest hospital building programme in a generation’ – a unique opportunity to transform NHS infrastructure. Although it’s uncertain whether or not the target of 40 hospitals will be achieved, the learnings gained from NHP have been invaluable to the future of the UK’s health estate and NHS infrastructure. 

Natalie Forrest, Senior Responsible Owner for the New Hospital Programme and previously the Chief Executive of one of the most digitally advanced hospitals in the UK, Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, said: “We are working to develop best practice guidance and standards that we will be able to use across the board, but we’re going to be learning. Those best practice guides will be dynamic and we’ll be continuing to feed them to support all the organisation with the latest intelligence on how to build a new hospital.”

The evolution of the hospital will by no means end by the NHP’s target of 2030, but neither will the new collaboration that’s been solidified between Trusts, health technology innovators, architects, manufacturers and contractors.

This article has been published on the Future Healthspaces website. Click here to view.

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