Midpark Hospital opened for patients on 9th January 2012 to glowing responses from patients, relatives, carers and staff. Built in response to the NHS Board’s redevelopment of mental health services, the £26.3 million acute mental health service facility will serve the entire Dumfries and Galloway region.
Often described as one of the grandest of Scotland’s Royal Asylums, the Crichton Royal Hospital was founded in Dumfries in 1839 by Elizabeth Crichton (1779-1862), a wealthy local widow. Her initial intention to found a university was blocked by the existing Scottish universities and as a result the site therefore became a Lunatic Asylum.
Although the 120-bed psychiatric hospital was mainly designed for paying clients, there was also ample space for the poor. Elizabeth Crichton persuaded William A . F Browne to take up the position of physician superintendent and implement his innovative ideas of occupational therapy and art therapy, which led to the facility being considered amongst the best Mental Health facilities in Europe during the 19th century.
By the end of World War II, the site had expanded to accommodate 1300 patients and in 1948 it relinquished its private status to join the newly formed National Health Service.
Following a 2004 review of facilities and services over the whole site, it was determined that the main shortcomings of the site were the lack of space, poor fabric and outdated design. In addition, there were no local intensive care or high care facilities and nurse, psychological and occupational therapy staffing levels were inadequate.
As a result of the findings, the Dumfries and Galloway NHS Board decided that a new hospital would be needed on the site in order to meet inpatient needs.
The 21-month project began in April 2010, finishing approximately three months ahead of schedule and around £1 million under budget thanks to the impressive efforts of the NHS Board project team and main contractor Laing O’Rourke.
The development is one of the first within Framework Scotland – a process whereby all parties (the commissioning body, the builders, architects, landscape designers, NHS managers, patients, families and service providers) combine efforts to design the hospital. Throughout all consultation with the public and those with more specific interests in mental health, there has been consistent feedback on a range of issues such as the light, space and the environment.
In total, Midpark Hospital comprises 85 beds, 34 of which are Adult Acute beds in two wards containing 17 beds. There are also 6 Psychiatric Intensive Care beds (IPCU), 15 Acute beds for older adults with functional mental illness (FMI), 16 Acute beds for adults with dementia or an organic illness and 14 beds for rehabilitation. The innovative design was created by architects for the project, Archial.
Through discussion, the concept of ‘Learning to Live’ was developed, which has resulted in the wards being arranged like colleges within a campus environment. The concept aims to create an environment in which patients can develop the life skills required to live as independently as possible.
The idea of natural progression from public entrance to private space was explored through the placement of the Intensive Psychiatric Care ward and the Adult Acute wards furthest into the site. The Elderly Acute and Organic wards are in turn on the main entrance level in order to facilitate visiting by elderly relatives, whilst the Rehabilitation unit at the lowest level on the site is most closely linked to the site entrance and the community beyond.
The Hub accommodation is split between the different levels and comprises a mixture of office admin spaces, along with a central social cafe space and Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy spaces. In addition, provisions have been made for facilities management, domestic services and catering spaces.
A feature two-storey element gives definition to the entrance whilst forming the entrance point and defining the internal ‘street’ that links the ward ‘colleges’ in a clear and logical manner. In order to ensure that it is easy for patients to find their way, the entrance to the four main wards has been kept as simple and as intuitive as possible.
One of the most interesting features of the new Midpark Hospital is the embedded concept of ‘Healing Spaces’, which is an innovative research-based approach to enhancing the arts for the lasting positive benefit of staff, patients and carers. Creative professionals have therefore worked with staff, patients, carers and community groups to develop permanent integrated artworks for the enhancement of the internal and external spaces for users and staff.
Research into the psychology of colours was carried out in order to assist in the selection of naturally calming colours for both internal and external finishes. Significant use has been made of the local Locharbriggs sandstone cladding, subsequently linking the development to the old Crichton Royal Hospital.
The windows are specially designed for mental health accommodation and feature sliding openers that are protected with a coloured perforated panel. A dark grey single ply membrane was selected for the low profile dual pitched roof in order to give the appearance of traditional seamed lead roofs whilst responding to maintenance and cost issues. In addition, a low parapet wall removes the need for chunky anti-climb guttering and lends a sleeker finish to the elevations.
On the north side of the development, there are three enclosed courtyards that form private spaces for the users of the facility. The grounds of the Crichton Royal Hospital are as beautiful today as they were two centuries ago, thanks to generations of gardeners’ skills and loving care.
Commenting on the completion of the development, Stephen Howie, Dumfries and Galloway NHS, said:
“The building is tiered down a hill on three levels, which was quite a challenge for the designers and the contractors. As a result, the layout had to bear in mind the changes in level, which has ultimately allowed the team to create interesting views from all of the different levels.
“It is a lovely rural setting with surrounding woods and hills and the project has aimed to make the most of the green setting. The grounds have now become part of the therapeutic space and we have also had the support of an internationally renowned architect, who has kindly designed a sculpture for the front of the hospital free charge.
“The team has been very innovative in their use of colour throughout the building, particularly with regards to the bright colours in the cladding panels. Another interesting feature is the excellent paths of observation within the wards, which has subsequently eradicated the need for CCTV.
“We are bringing an Intensive Care Psychiatric Unit to the area, which is a facility that has not been available until now. Patients had to go out of the area, which was obviously inconvenient for both the patients and their families. However, the new unit will allow patients to be treated much closer to home and facilitate visits from friends and family.
“The team has performed brilliantly and everyone is very pleased with the progress that has been made. I think I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we are very excited to be able to release this state-of-the-art facility for use in the local community.”