In this article William Tonkinson, Managing Director of hospital fit-out specialist Deanestor, looks at how a new cancer hospital in Liverpool used bespoke furniture to transform chemotherapy treatment and other spaces. He also offers some practical advice for specifying hospital furniture.
Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool is the city’s first specialist cancer hospital. This spectacular 11-storey hospital designed by BDP is located adjacent to the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and in the city’s Knowledge Quarter – a thriving medical, scientific and technology community.
The project’s completion was accelerated by main contractor Laing O’Rourke to provide protected facilities in Liverpool for people with cancer in the coronavirus pandemic and released capacity at other hospitals in the North West.
The new hospital is designed to deliver a wide range of highly specialist cancer care including pioneering chemotherapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy and radiotherapy. It has state-of-the-art facilities for bone marrow transplant, diagnostics and imaging, outpatients, day case treatments, a teenage and young adult unit, clinical therapies and patient support.
The building incorporates 110 single en-suite patient bedrooms and five radiotherapy Linac treatment suites, stepping back in profile at its upper levels to create external terrace spaces for wards, especially for the chemotherapy floor. These offer panoramic views across Liverpool, giving staff, patients and visitors access to external landscaping and fresh air.
Over 3700 items of bespoke furniture
Deanestor was awarded a £1.5m contract by Laing O’Rourke for the manufacture of bespoke furniture and fit-out of the new hospital – its 16th fit-out project for Laing O’Rourke.
Over 3700 bespoke items of furniture were manufactured and installed for the project, including full-height patient bay partitions for the chemotherapy suites, base and wall cabinets, wardrobes for the en-suite patient rooms, worktops, staff kitchens and reception desks and nurse stations to each floor.
Deanestor’s team also procured and installed over 5000 other items for the new hospital – from mirrors and grabrails to lockers – fitting-out around 800 rooms.
A new approach to treatment spaces
Deanestor manufactured 50 specially-designed, freestanding screens which create individual patient spaces in the chemotherapy units and incorporate datacomms, power, medical gases, storage and a recess for a curtain.
These floor-to-ceiling chair bay partitions give patients privacy in the open-plan treatment areas whilst facilitating interaction in an open, light and welcoming environment. The screens have an American oak finish, an opaque resin panel and laminated cabinets finished in colours from a palette used for each floor.
Bespoke joinery and fixed furniture solutions
Bespoke joinery provided for the project included the manufacture and installation of 110 wardrobes with a wood grain finish to each of the single en-suite patient bedrooms, and 43 reception desks with storage for nurses’ stations.
In its fixed furniture package, Deanestor manufactured, supplied and fitted 16 staff kitchens, worktops and storage units for consultants’ examination rooms, and lead-lined base and wall cabinets for the radiotherapy department. More than 1100 cabinets were produced for multiple rooms across the new hospital which were pre-assembled to reduce work on site.
The team’s perspective
Abdul Moked, Senior Architect at BDP, commented: “Despite working to a tight budget, there has been no compromise on the quality of furniture manufacture and this standard was maintained in the fit-out on site. The quality of fitting-out is so important in a healthcare environment and contributes to effective infection control and reduced maintenance. Deanestor also added value to the project with input in the design and the choice of materials, particularly for dimensional and thermal stability given the size of some of the items.
“The chair bay screens in the chemotherapy units are absolutely stunning. The trust wanted a new concept and an alternative to cellular spaces and traditional patient cubicles. The freestanding bespoke joinery has completely changed the dynamic, bringing a new dimension to the chemotherapy treatment areas and the quality of the finish has definitely helped that. We are really pleased with how the design of these partitions allows daylight transmission in the open-plan space whilst maintaining a sense of privacy – and facilitating interaction between patients and staff.”
Tim Holliday, Director of Project Managers at CCL Solutions, added: “The fit-out looks fantastic. We have worked with Deanestor on a number of NHS projects since 2003. Their team has huge experience in hospital furniture and fit-out and has consistently performed well on these complex projects.
“At Clatterbridge, Deanestor had good project management in place and was also able to source specialist items for the trust to overcome supply issues. Fixtures and fittings procured by the trust were delivered direct to the Deanestor factory to simplify logistics ahead of fitting-out. This was a key benefit given the hospital’s city centre location and the need to reduce deliveries to site.”
How to specify hospital furniture
As patients continue to develop a more consumer mindset, healthcare providers are under increasing pressure to reduce cost, improve quality, promote safety and best practice in infection control – as well as enhance the experience of patients.
Balancing these requirements is a major challenge and furniture manufacturers have an essential role to play in the development and commercial production of items which meet those needs.
Furniture is an integral part of most healthcare projects, providing comfort whilst expressing positivity in waiting areas; facilitating communication between clinicians and patients, and supporting staff in their tasks.
Analysing processes and patient flows
A thorough analysis of each department’s processes and patient flows at the outset is essential. Mock-up rooms can be developed by the manufacturer to help achieve the optimum clinical functionality and aesthetic design.
Consider lifecycle costing. This is important to achieve long-term value but is too frequently overlooked in furniture specification.
A good, specialist hospital furniture manufacturer will engage with the design and construction team at an early stage to develop the specification for manufacture and ensure the specific project requirements are met with as few deviations as possible.
Cabinet construction to reduce time on site
Glue and dowel construction for cabinetry and pre-assembled carcasses will radically reduce work and the number of fitters on site and should significantly improve quality. This type of furniture is also more durable to withstand the long-term rigours of a healthcare environment that may be in use 24/7.
A UK-based manufacturer will provide continuity of supply and reduces the risk of delays – which is even more important in the Brexit transition period and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lead times should also be shorter, particularly in the supply of replacement products – and will support the UK manufacturing economy.