Sycamore at Northgate Park Hospital
A choice of secure settings that promote a meaningful day for patients.
NTW Solutions - Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
Architect, Masterplanner, Interior Designer
NHS New Hospital Programme (Cohort 1)
Sycamore is a new medium secure mental health facility at the heart of the redevelopment of Northgate Park Hospital, providing inpatient accommodation for 72 male patients with a range of forensic mental health needs. The building is the catalyst to allow all secure services across the Trust to be brought together from previously dispersed sites, consolidated in a single, integrated secure centre of excellence. Developed around the concept of a ‘village campus’, it provides a wide variety of indoor and outdoor settings for relaxation and activity, relieving boredom and addressing the risk of challenging behaviours and poor physical health.
An inclusive outdoor space for communal recreation
The building has been designed to provide a choice of spaces, both inside and out, which ensure a meaningful day for all patients, promoting recovery through activity. This is achieved in a variety of settings that can be accessed autonomously, from bedrooms to living spaces, and sheltered gardens to open courtyards, with opportunities for both structured and unstructured sports and activities.
Six patient wards are paired together and arranged around a large recreation courtyard. This forms a secure boundary without the need for high fences and the feeling of confinement they can create. With rich landscaping and integrated security measures, this shared space does not feel like a typical forensic mental health facility. The inclusive courtyard is separated into two distinct character zones, ‘Passive’ and ‘Active’. The ‘Passive’ zone provides opportunities for refuge, with restful places to sit amongst plants and grasses. The ‘Active’ zone includes a 200m jogging/walking loop, activity spaces and a fitness ‘trim trail’ to promote physical activity and the associated wellbeing benefits.
I’m immensely proud of this facility, which will support some of the most vulnerable and forgotten people in society.
Choice of open or private spaces for activity and wellbeing
In addition to the large, shared recreation space, at the centre of each ward, a private landscaped courtyard for relaxation is provided, and between each ward pair is a designated activity courtyard, with sports court markings. This provides safe access to a variety of outdoor areas. The majority of the day activity and living space is at the centre of the ward with direct access into the courtyards. Abundant daylighting, attractive views and a sense of spaciousness contribute to the therapeutic qualities of the environment and play an important role in patient health and rehabilitation.
Whilst use of the common spaces is encouraged, it was acknowledged that this patient group may choose to spend time in their own room, particularly in the morning and evening. To promote personal wellbeing, bedrooms are arranged to face outwards, with views to the surrounding mature woodland. To maximise the opportunity for activity, the bespoke fitted furniture has been designed to assist with a personal workout outside of scheduled recreation time.
Sycamore is the culmination of so much best practice and research, offering outstanding facilities for our staff and the people we care for.
It is inspiring to see the unit in use and heartening to hear the early feedback from clinicians about the quality of the accommodation. This is a flagship development, and it has set a new standard, not just for our future projects but for the whole mental health sector.
Challenging the stigma around mental healthcare
The exterior appearance of the new facility is extremely important and has a major role to play in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as engendering pride in the building as a workplace. A visible and publicly accessible café with integrated artwork provides a welcoming space for visitors and staff working across the site. A consistent and controlled palette of materials and architectural styles has been developed to integrate the building with existing buildings and to present a positive image for visitors and new arrivals.
The highly advanced building is a credit to the Trust and will be paramount in providing the highest level of safe patient care.