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Early designs for £220m Cambridge Children’s Hospital are unveiled

Early designs for Cambridge Children’s Hospital have been revealed to councillors ahead of a planning application for the £220m facility later this year.

Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372) (50641410)
Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372) (50641410)

The milestone is a step towards the development of the hospital, which will integrate mental and physical health services alongside world-class research.

Cambridge Children’s Hospital is a partnership between Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), which runs Addenbrooke’s and the Rosie, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT), which runs the county’s mental health services, along with the University of Cambridge.

The total cost is expected to be £220million, with £20million raised from land sales, and it aims to open in 2025, with construction work starting in 2023.

Oliver Milton, partner at Hawkins\Brown Architects, told the city council’s planning committee: “The design looks to create a healing environment and that means thinking about how we bring in fresh air and natural daylight, and provide connections to the outdoors.

“We’ve got different needs for different types of patients to think about. We’ve got some patients who will be here for a very long time. We need to think about them as well, by providing a home from home.

“We want to try and think about how we can mitigate the kind of daunting effects of visiting hospitals for young people and try and provide a bit of them that can reflect some of everyday domestic life. By using domestic materials, we can provide spaces for family life to continue as far as possible.

“We need to ensure that Cambridge Children’s Hospital can adapt and change, and hospitals have been very bad at this in the past. To do that we’ve developed a set of adaptable design principles that look to design spaces across a range of different uses that can be fitted into a range of different spaces – and finally it should be a child-centric facility.”

With an estimated total footprint of 30,000sq m, including 5,000sq m of research space, the drawings are an early indication of how this innovative hospital might look when it opens in 2025.

Councillors were given the opportunity to review the designs ahead of a formal planning application being submitted in the autumn. This is the next step in the planning process, and builds on the existing outline planning permission, which was previously granted for the Cambridge Biomedical Campus site.

Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372)
Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372)

An international design team, made up of experts from Turner & Townsend, Hawkins\Brown, White Arkitekter, Ramboll and MJ Medical, have been engaging with staff from across the partner organisations about how the hospital should work.

Members of Cambridge Children’s Network, which is made up of children, young people, parents and carers from across the region, have also been helping shape how the facility might look and feel in these early designs.

The architects referred to the designs as ‘playful’. Councillors asked how they would ensure it represented a child’s view of playfulness.

Mr Milton said: “We’ll be doing lots of work with the young people’s groups to understand what they see, what they want out of the hospital, and how they perceive what would be welcoming, and what would be the types of places and spaces they would want to come into.

“Some of the themes coming out of that are the incorporation of colour, for example, the incorporation of access to outdoor spaces, the access to nature and spaces for play. We’re trying as hard as we can to ensure that we are talking to young people and the patients of the hospital, and the future patients of the hospital in the way in which we determine what we mean by playful and how we incorporate playfulness in the design.”

Carin Charlton, director of capital, estates and facilities management, told the committee: “This is the only region that doesn’t have a dedicated children’s hospital. And what this scheme – Cambridge Children’s – seeks to do is correct that. We are delighted that we have managed to secure central government funding to finally make this happen.

“This building will enable us to treat children in a whole new way to treat the child, and not the illness, and importantly to mental health and physical health.”

Work continues on developing the outline business case, which has to be approved by the Treasury.

The new Cambridge Children's Hospital will be built opposite the Rosie Maternity Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell
The new Cambridge Children's Hospital will be built opposite the Rosie Maternity Hospital Picture: Keith Heppell

Mr Milton continued: “The bulk of the clinical accommodation is in three efficient flexible blocks, which are organised around a central integration hub that forms the heart of the hospital.

“The integration hub contains all of the primary circulation spaces for the scheme. And it’s also an opportunity to provide a more playful and child centric space right at the heart of the scheme.

“The main entrance is on the north side of the site, opposite the Rosie, which obviously has strong connections to the children’s hospital.”

The hospital will also be accessed from a new road, off Dame Mary Archer Way. This entrance will be for deliveries and for certain patients, who need a “discrete entrance”.

The site will only have disabled parking spaces, with internal facilities for bike storage. It is planned that Cambridge South railway station will open at the same time as the hospital.

The wards will be at the top of the building to “maximise their access to natural daylight” and operating theatres and intensive care facilities will be on the lower floors.

All patient rooms will be individual, and will enable families to stay in the rooms with children where appropriate. There will be other rooms for families, who are unable to stay with children.

“We’re looking to provide a building which is flooded with daylight, and has good access to outdoor space and to do that we’ve got courtyards dotted throughout,” said Mr Milton. “There are many varieties, some of them such as the playground in the middle is a large central active space, some of them such as the walled gardens are much quieter spaces for respite and peacefulness.”

The new building will be net carbon zero, with ceramic and concrete panels used for the construction. This was criticised by councillors, who are aware of the implications of using such products.

Ms Charlton added: “The number one priority from my perspective, as the custodian of the infrastructure, is patient safety and there will have to be some trade-offs as a result.

“I just want to be very clear that the design team has to satisfy the trust’s externally-appointed officers, specialists on fire, to satisfy them that the fire strategy doesn’t just work – and the building doesn’t just work – for today but also works in 60 to 70 years’ time.

“I just want to make sure the committee is aware there’s many things that we have to balance and that patient safety is the number one thing.”

The hospital will care for children and young people from Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, but also nationally and internationally as a ‘hospital without walls’, embedding genomic and psychological research alongside clinical expertise in physical and mental child health.

Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372) (50641412)
Architects' drawing of Cambridge Children's Hospital - credit Hawkins/Brown and White Arkitekter (50435372) (50641412)

Cambridge Children’s Hospital is described as a brand new state-of-the-art hospital designed to take care of the whole child, not just their illness.

Project director Alex White said: “This is an important next step towards developing the East of England’s first dedicated children’s hospital. These are early designs but it’s exciting to see our ‘whole child’ vision for integrated mental and physical health care at Cambridge Children’s Hospital taking shape.

“Our new facility will be a world-first, providing complete and seamless care for our region’s young people and their individual needs.”

The hospital will be for NHS patients, but a private patient unit “run by the NHS for the NHS” is also being explored.

Building work is due to start in 2023 and Cambridge Children’s Hospital is due to open in 2025.

The hospital will sit opposite The Rosie maternity hospital on Robinson’s Way.

Former health secretary Matt Hancock committed £100million of government funding for the project in 2018.

Read more:

Young designer scoops prize for Cambridge Children’s Network logo

Three new hospitals on Cambridge Biomedical Campus coming ‘in the next decade’

Health secretary Matt Hancock: ‘New Addenbrooke’s Hospital to be best in the world’

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