100 more beds per annum needed to future-proof London’s healthcare estate

Saturday 30 September 2017

London needs to drastically increase its funding of healthcare projects in order to provide sufficient care for the capital’s growing population.

This was one of the key messages to emerge at a recent NLA breakfast talk looking at the future of health buildings in London.

John Cooper, architect, health strategist and former Chair of Architects for Health stressed the importance of increasing funding for development projects to future proof the healthcare sector. With just 2.5 beds per thousand people, the UK falls significantly behind our European neighbours, with France achieving 6.4 beds per thousand, and 8.3 in Germany. The world leader, Japan, offers an impressive 13.6 beds per thousand people. With the capital’s population rising, London needs to provide ‘an additional 100 beds per annum’ Cooper explained. 

With shifting trends in healthcare and new models being explored internationally, future funding must focus on traditional healthcare, but also community care, healthy towns and villages, and the incorporation of local healthcare into mixed use developments. ‘The London healthcare estate is worth approximately £12 billion’ said Cooper, and warrants significant continued investment.

The event, chaired by NLA director Catherine Staniland, then heard three case studies of key healthcare projects underway in London, examining the importance of innovative design. 

At UCHL, the new Proton Beam Therapy Centre designed by Scott Tallon Walker, in collaboration with Edward Williams Architects stands to offer life-saving cancer treatments to some 700 patients per year when it opens in 2020. ‘The complex site on Tottenham Court Road, in a conservation area and within the London View Corridor’ explained Scott Tallon Walker director Kevin Bates, ‘offered some extremely complex challenges’. A 28.5m deep basement structure, one of the largest open digs at the moment in the UK, will house 4 large 10m diameter gantries, requiring high levels of protection and shielding. With a particular focus on light, materials and art, the building sensitively deals with the transition from above ground to basement, with careful design improving the holistic quality and function of the spaces. 

‘Don’t lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’ was the key message from Chris Watson, Property Director, Maggie’s, who’s portfolio of 19 centres across the UK offer support to those living with cancer. With a dedication to high quality architecture, each Maggie’s Centre is individually designed to ‘reduce stress and anxiety for visitors’, with award winning buildings designed by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and others. The new centre at St Bart’s located on a small site with a rich history uses ‘open floor areas, stained glass and a generous staircase’ to create a peaceful space, centered around the essential Maggie’s kitchen table. 

Finally, Liz O’Sullivan, Arts Manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust stressed the importance of art in health buildings. With an investment of £1.7M, the world-class arts programme at Guy’s & St Thomas new Cancer Centre improves the patient environment, increases wellbeing, and ultimately reduces hospital stay lengths. Mariele Neudecker’s ‘Hanging Gardens: Parallel Lives’’ transports patients into the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, one of the most bio-diverse forests in the world, while ‘The Living Room’ by BAT Studio in collaboration with The Workers creates a space which provides moments of escape for patients and carers, using bespoke sound technology. 

By Mark Cox, Programme Manager, New London Architecture 

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