PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

Alastair Forbes, architectural director at Ryder, looks back on the Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice’s first year of operation.

PPWH (©Keith Hunter)
PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

The year coming to an end is traditionally a time for reflection. For many of us at Ryder that is doubly the case, as we are also marking 12 months since the opening of the new Prince & Princess of Wales Hospice (PPWH) in Glasgow.  It was an honour to lead this project for Ryder, and I’m exceptionally proud of both the building and how it has been received by patients, volunteers, staff and visitors.

There is no doubt that a huge factor in the success of the building was the input of many different people throughout the project who contributed to PPWH becoming the exemplar building it is today.  In the course of this blog, we’re going to hear from some of those individuals whose contributions proved so vital throughout the design process.

The new £21m hospice replaced the former building at Carlton Place, the Georgian townhouse where the hospice was located for over 30 years.  Dr Anne Gilmore OBE was one of the founders of PPWH and wanted to bring a modern hospice to Glasgow.

She was steadfast in her belief that the building is more than just background but rather part of the therapy,
“The aim at all times is to enhance the quality of life.  It is separate from mainstream medicine – the building itself is part of the therapy.  We wanted to avoid a white, clinical, institutional place, and instead create a friendly, informal environment, where people can feel relaxed and comfortable, so promoting a certain ambience and joy.”

PPWH (©Keith Hunter)
PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

From the outset, rather than looking at the project with preconceived notions of what a hospice might be, we utilised a fresh perspective and were open to new ways of delivering an outstanding building for the people of Glasgow.

This drove us towards exploring the Sengetun model – a Scandinavian design model that is based upon pioneering research which links the aesthetic design of a healthcare facility to patients’ wellbeing – for the inpatient unit.  This is achieved by putting the person first, offering patients choice and the quality of life they deserve in a place that looks and feels like home, whilst the clinical and medical assistance is carried out in the background.

The whole design has been focused around dignity for patients and their families, as well as exceptional volunteers and staff.  Wholly contemporary, the hospice is a special place which feels comfortably like home – humble, dignified, unobtrusive and private when required.

PPWH (©Keith Hunter)
PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

We first contacted Marte Lauvsnes, project and development hospital planning manager for Sykehusbygg, the Norwegian Hospital Construction Agency, in 2012 and maintained dialogue throughout the project.  We were honoured that Marte recently found the time to join us from Norway and visit the hospice.  Her feedback was humbling,
“I am really impressed by the way you have taken the principles of Sengetun into such a great design for the users.  My impression is that you have used knowledge, thoughtfulness and your heart in a combination to give users and staff supportive surroundings both inside and outside.  It is an example to look for by others.”

New technology was embraced and has been crucial in changing and enhancing care delivery.  The nurses’ station uses wireless technologies, freeing staff from static observation stations and improving visual links and patient proximity.  Staff walking distances and travel times were also reduced, allowing more time for direct patient care and an enhanced working environment. 

Given the function of the building, there were certain areas where mistakes could be made that would directly impact upon people’s experience.  Fortunately, through the strong relationships we had with the client, we were able to test everything.  This wasn’t a failsafe solution, of course – no matter how much you test something, it can still go wrong.  However, the patient feedback since opening has been overwhelming.

PPWH (©Keith Hunter)
PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

While support from peers and leading figures within the industry is heartening, the most important opinions of all are from those who use the building daily – patients and staff.

Testament to this is the feedback from Gillian Sherwood, PPWH’s director of clinical services,
“Our nurses love to be able to sit in the social area in the middle of our inpatient unit and document care, with no obstacles between them and the patients and families.  Our families comment on how this lack of a traditional nursing station really contributes to taking away the physical, and perceived, barriers between staff, patients and families, which truly allows us all to be partners in the patients’ care.

“The lovely views looking out at the fully accessible, landscaped gardens and the amazing details within the building encourage patients and families to feel, and be, at home. This not only gives the patients great assurance and reassurance but can positively influence a family’s bereavement experience.

“Clinical equipment makes a healthcare environment very unwelcoming, but our new home has all the advantages of a state of the art healthcare environment with the equipment discreetly placed.  The track hoists, for example, in our inpatient unit and complimentary therapy room in outpatients, go unnoticed by visitors but enable the staff to reposition and enable patients in comfort and with dignity.  Few visitors ever realise that there are oxygen points available throughout the building, increasing the accessibility of the spaces and making a huge difference to people’s wellbeing.

“Many people visit our new home but few leave without commenting on how the building is stunning, yet calm and welcoming!  This incredible building contributes massively to the excellent care our team always strives to deliver.”

PPWH (©Keith Hunter)
PPWH (©Keith Hunter)

The hospice has 160 staff and 760 volunteers, with 1,200 new patients referred every year.  The conversations we’ve had with these user groups have been moving – we have had a lot of comments on how the hospice radiates a calming ambience, and how it feels as though everything slows down once you walk in the front door.

People are using the building in the way in which we hoped – they are living within the building in a way they would any other home they’ve lived in.

As architects, our work is often spent in meetings with decision makers, poring over designs and making technical adjustments.  It is therefore always a hugely satisfying moment to see the real life impact your work has had, but especially so when it concerns a building that is used by people in what are inevitably difficult times.

That we’ve been able to create an environment that can help create beautiful moments during life’s darkest periods is a huge privilege.  Our design principles were underpinned by an ultimate commitment to raising the standards of patient care, resulting in an exemplar facility that will support the people of Glasgow for many years to come.

The bonds made during the process of designing and building the hospice will last a lifetime.  It has left its mark on all of us involved.