Inpatient Unit Refurbishment: Redesigning palliative care

As part of the wide-ranging refurbishment of St John & St Elizabeth Hospital, St John’s Hospice Inpatient Unit (IPU) is in line for a major refresh that will make it both more comfortable and more advanced in its provision of palliative care.

Steve Kimp is St John & St Elizabeth Hospital’s Director of Projects, responsible for overseeing the refurbishment of the Hospice IPU as well as that of other wings, and the significant Hospital extension currently underway. He is renowned for his ability to manage difficult projects, making him perfectly suited to the unique challenges presented by carrying out work on a functioning hospital and hospice.

Here, he talks about the vision for the St John’s Hospice IPU refurbishment, and how it is going to make a significant emotional difference to the experience of our Hospice inpatients.

It’s time for an update.

The IPU was last refurbished 15 years ago. With so much happening around the Hospital – we’ve previously done ward refurbs within the David Morley building, and the St Elizabeth and St Francis wards – it was time to bring the Hospice up to date. We’re following our original Hospital template and there are some really nice finishes in there; it is coordinated and designed around dementia and that impacts the choice of colours, finishes, touch, feel and sight.

It all started with the Hospice garden.

When we moved the Chelsea Flower Show garden to the Hospice around four years ago, it was ideal for those patients that are still mobile and able to go and sit in the garden. However, we do have a proportion of patients that arrive who are less mobile due to illness.

The idea came about that we would create a multi-purpose room that provides a much better view of the garden. In essence, it’s a big dining room with a table that can seat 10 to 12 people, and the idea was we build a big glazed conservatory on the outside of the Hospital that gives less mobile patients the ability to still enjoy the garden. It’s going to make the Hospice quite a bit brighter and airier too.

The refurbishment is creating a new space for young inpatients.

By moving various elements of the existing Hospice around, we are freeing up about 30 square metres where we will build a glass-boxed room that will be quite a focal point. Our plan is to use that as a young persons’ and adolescents’ room – so there’s some really exciting design and lots of bespoke joinery going in. We’ve been listening to our paediatric counsellors and trying to incorporate as much of their input into our designs as possible.

For the designers that was a big challenge because the Hospice said they wanted a room for young people – and if you look at the kids that come in, they can be anything from three to 18 years old. So we needed to create an environment that’s appealing to people over such a wide age range.

The seats will be built into the wall, and there will be some beautifully vivid colours in the room. There will be lots of cubes and triangular pyramid shapes that will all interlock into these bits of joinery in the walls, so the older people can pull them out and sit on them and utilise the space for doing work, and the younger kids can make shapes with them or build dens and have fun.

We looked at the possibility of interactive whiteboards or walls, but for the Hospice, you don’t want to be overstimulating people. A lot of the Hospice work involves counselling with psychiatrists and psychologists and we want the room to serve as a space for this too. In this case, too much stimulation can be a distraction.

The refurbishment became an opportunity to expand the Hospice.

In order to build the multi-purpose room, we were going to have to displace one of the bedrooms. The knock-on effect of that was the project began to grow; the last thing we were going to do is create a new bedroom and replicate the current theme. So we started looking at how we could improve the existing bedrooms as well.

One of things we’re incorporating is a panel for dementia patients. At the foot of every bed – or at the nearest wall facing the patient – we’re installing 32-inch TVs, and then around that area they’ve got a back-painted glass feature wall with magnetic paint on it. So the nurses have the ability to write on the TV; things like the patient’s name, what they like to be called, and what activities they enjoy. The magnetic paint allows patients to put any family photos and cards directly onto the feature wall.

Along with that we’ve got a little shelf that sits underneath for photo frames or personal belongings such as ornaments. Behind every bed we’ll have these nice little joinery units with inset LED lights in them that patients can control, and all the lighting in the rooms will be dimmable. There will be individual air conditioning and heating in every room so the temperature can be controlled by the patient or carer, allowing the patient to remain as independent as they can be for as long as possible.

Our goal is quite simply to make the entire Hospice as comfortable and calming a place to be as possible.

We are still on the lookout for donations to help us complete our essential IPU refurb project. If you are interested please click here to donate and in the section “in memory of” please put IPU Refurb so we can be sure it is allocated to the right project. Thank you for your generosity.

Click to return to the top of the page