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Exclusive: Nurses played ‘key role’ in designing new children’s hospital

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Nurses have played a fundamental role in the design of a ground-breaking new children’s hospital in Liverpool, which opened its doors to patients at the start of October.

The new Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, which has been built in a park, has 270 beds including a 48-bed state-of-the-art critical care facility.

“We have wrapped the building around the service and not the other way round”

Andrea Spyropoulos

The design and location were inspired by feedback from children and young people, but nursing staff have also had a huge amount of impact, explained project manager Andrea Spyropoulos, a nurse by background and a former president of the Royal College of Nursing.

“Nurses were involved right from the first concept before any designers or managers came on board,” she told Nursing Times. “We started with nurses looking at what we wanted for families so we had a very clear idea of what we would do differently and how we would deliver that.”

Innovations include that every ward will have its own chef, who will work closely with nursing staff to cater for children and provide meals as and when needed – an idea that came from nursing staff who had seen the success of the same arrangement in the hospital’s oncology unit.

Nurses have also been instrumental in ensuring parents and siblings of young patients are cared for too, said Ms Spyropoulos.

“Nurses have concentrated a lot on providing for families because all nursing staff are acutely aware that when a child comes into hospital they never come in isolation – they are part of a package,” she said.

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust

Nurses played ‘key role’ in designing new children’s hospital

Nurses and children were central to the design of the new hospital

“They felt all children no matter what their age want their parents when they are unwell and having facilities to support parents was important,” she said.

The hospitals features large play areas where siblings can interact, rest areas for parents and children’s bedrooms also include a parent bed.

“Nurses who are health and safety reps have been very pro-active in ensuring the environment was safe for children – picking up on things we might not have thought about,” added Ms Spyropoulos.

“Nurses have thought about everything on the practical side of delivering services for children. The experience they have has meant we’ve positioned things in the right locations, travel distances are shorter and there are interview rooms which are private and provide dignity,” she said.

The move will mean new ways of working for nursing staff, who will also benefit from new facilities including offices, rest rooms, changing facilities and recreational areas.

The £250m children’s health campus, which also includes a brand new education and research centre, replaces the existing 100-year-old hospital.

“The building we are in at the moment was designed for the Victorian age and is not really fit for purpose but we still deliver an outstanding service,” said Ms Spyropoulos.

“Getting a new building has allowed us to change the way we work because we have wrapped the building around the service and not the other way round,” she told Nursing Times.

“Nurses have thought about everything on the practical side of delivering services for children”

Andrea Spyropoulos

New staffing arrangements should mean nurses spending less time doing housekeeping duties and more time on nursing care, she said.

A review of staffing by Alder Hey Children’s Foundation has led to more nurses being recruited with at least 70 new posts filled.

There has also been an increase in support roles to free up nurses to focus on clinical skills, said Ms Spyropoulos.

Other developments include the fact the hospital’s accident and emergency department will include a new nurse-led emergency assessment unit employing nurse consultants.

Ms Spyropoulos said staff were naturally anxious in the build-up to the move but, now that it was actually happening, “nurses are excited”.

“The wards are sensational,” she said. “Nursing staff are raring to go and can’t wait to get in.”

Alder Hey Children's NHS Foundation Trust

Nurses played ‘key role’ in designing new children’s hospital

The new Alder Hey Hospital opened in October

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Readers' comments (1)

  • michael stone

    Marvellous, how thinking properly - instead of blindly 'ticking boxes, and 'plan coherence'' - seems to make blindingly obvious 'sense':

    'Innovations include that every ward will have its own chef, who will work closely with nursing staff to cater for children and provide meals as and when needed – an idea that came from nursing staff who had seen the success of the same arrangement in the hospital’s oncology unit.'

    Of course, nurses 'see things' - the nurses are there, caring for these children ! So 'asking the nurses for input', if it is 'innovative', shouldn't be !

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