Two years on: evaluation of the redevelopment of ICU at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital

To mark the two-year anniversary of the official opening of the Adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on 29 June 2021, CW+ has published an evaluation of the redevelopment of the ICU, focusing on the environmental enhancements of the unit.

The ICU was funded through the CW+ Critical Care campaign, which raised £12.5m for the redevelopment of both the Adult and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, the total cost of which was £36m. The environmental enhancements of the ICU were made possible thanks to the generous support of the Julia and Hans Rausing Trust as well as other donors. These included a 45% expansion in size, new facilities and technological enhancements, and new respite spaces including an indoor botanical Sky Garden, installed adjacent to the ICU.

The recent report reveals that for patients, environmental improvements were found in reduced sound levels, warmer temperatures and a huge increase in daytime light levels. Extensive floor-to-ceiling windows have made the new ICU more than eight times brighter than in the old unit, contributing to a healthy circadian rhythm and potentially reducing the risk of delirium. Increased privacy for patients was also highlighted (which also enabled regular personalised music performances from CW+ artists).

The experience of relatives visiting the unit was universally seen by staff as having improved, with more spacious bed areas allowing for greater privacy and expanded overnight facilities. One member of staff said: ‘It’s amazing: the space, the waiting areas, the toilet facilities, the little kitchenette, overnight rooms’.

Staff also benefited from environmental improvements, including a significant reduction in the level of background sound. New respite and training spaces for staff were highlighted as having had a positive impact on staff experience, as was the Sky Garden, which was used for breaks, meetings and rest. The increased space within the unit was perhaps the most significant improvement for staff, facilitating the movement of patients and equipment, and, in combination with the overall aesthetic of the unit and window views, creating a calmer working environment. As well as having a positive effect on staff wellbeing, some said that it had even influenced their decision to choose the unit as a place to work. ‘I think it’s a beautiful place to work, it’s really wonderful’, said one member of staff.

Leigh Paxton, Matron of the Adult Intensive Care Unit at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, said: ‘For the patients here, and for the staff who care for them, the transformation of the ICU has made a huge difference. I’ve seen first-hand the impact that these redevelopments have already made. By incorporating innovations and digital solutions that can be personalised to each patient, we have seen reductions in anxiety, pain and stress, improving patient experience and recovery. The improvements have also been positive for staff, with the increase in space benefiting staff wellbeing.

‘Looking ahead, it’s really important that we are constantly collecting and analysing data to evaluate these environments to build a compelling evidence base, and an ideal blueprint to share with sister institutions and across the NHS.’

You can read the ICU evaluation report here.