The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, which boasts Europe’s largest critical care unit, has been designed to be light and spacious to put patients and visitors at ease with the latest medical technology
University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust
Interview by Mark Nicholls
When Julie Moore took over as chief executive of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust in 2006, she had a vision. “I wanted to deliver the best in care in the best facilities – not just in Birmingham but in the region and the UK,” she recalls. “The most exciting thing on the horizon – quite literally – was the opening of our new hospital. Now you can see this magnificent building on nearly every skyline, wherever you are in the city.
“It’s the physical manifestation of our vision and will deliver just what we aimed to achieve. It’s the city’s first new acute hospital in 70 years and it represents a £545m investment in health services for Birmingham and the Midlands.”
The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham admits its first patients on 16 June 2010 with services being transferred in seven phases from UHB’s Queen Elizabeth and Selly Oak hospitals through to October 2011. It has 1,213 beds, the largest critical care unit in Europe and 30 operating theatres, including seven dedicated day-case theatres. This allows UHB to achieve some of the shortest waiting times in the UK.
“Crucially, for the first time, all of our services will be under one roof, helping our emergency services and, in particular, providing care precisely when and where it is required,” says Julie. “It is a hospital built to the very latest healthcare standards and it will allow our clinical teams to improve still further the quality of care they provide.”
About 44% of patients will be treated in single rooms with the rest in four-bed wards – all of which have en-suite bathrooms. “The new design greatly improves the trust’s primary aim to prevent infection, as it gives us greater ability to protect or isolate patients who have a higher risk of picking up a bug or passing one on to others,” explains Julie. “Wards have clinical hand-wash stations at their entrance to highlight the need to wash hands before entering and leaving.”
Designed for patients
Despite its size, the new hospital is designed to operate on a human scale, putting patients and visitors at ease.
“The design incorporates lots of glass and internal courtyards which allow patients and visitors to see outside – something that is proven to greatly reduce anxiety,” says Julie.
“There will be dedicated patient and visitor lifts, with other lifts available for staff and the moving of goods. It is touches like this that allow us to support new ways of working that benefit both patients and staff.”
New models of care
The new hospital is not just a new building; it has also signalled new models of care.
“For the staff, this has meant an opportunity to be involved in something that most people who work in health will never have the chance to be involved in,” says Julie. “For the patients, it means putting them truly at the centre of care in a way that will make a difference to their lives.”
This has been achieved by a move to clinical aggregations which group specialties around patient need, offering an opportunity for collaborative working across all specialties to provide co-ordinated care, with wards allocated to support this approach.
This level of care will be supported by the latest technology and cutting-edge systems – some of which will be used for the first time in the UK.
Technological innovations include the latest electronic theatre control panels (eTCP), from Starkstrom, which allow staff to specify or modify theatre settings at the touch of a screen. This means less time adjusting the equipment and more time focusing on patient care.
Self-service kiosks, successfully trialled in the old hospitals, check in people arriving for outpatients’ appointments, with sophisticated software recognising a unique patient ‘barcode’ to register patient details without them having to queue at a reception. The patient’s arrival triggers information on a ‘dashboard’ viewed by the receptionist who monitors flow while the clinician uses the same software to record the outcome of a visit with details uploaded to patient notes.
One of the biggest-ever imaging procurement exercises was carried out to buy equipment for the new hospital and has resulted in the very latest diagnostics technology – representing a step change in UHB’s ability to diagnose and research illnesses.
“This was vital in the vision to deliver speedier and improved care,” says Julie. “It includes new capabilities to provide three-dimensional scans and machines that can provide therapies as well as diagnosis.
“Another benefit is that some of the scanning equipment will be able to take larger bodies, reflecting the changing nature of society.”
The new hospital is not just world-class in terms of the clinical environment it offers. It also meets some of the world’s most stringent standards for energy efficiency. It is a third more energy efficient than the old hospitals combined and meets Government targets for making best use of the power it consumes.
“As a working environment, the new hospital is truly second to none. We have a superb, purpose-built building, cutting-edge technology and a model of care that can not be bettered,” says Julie.
A major move
As Julie prepares to oversee the day-to-day running of the new hospital, she reflects on the long journey – marked by many significant milestones – that led to UHB’s current position. The project is so huge that it will have taken around 15 years to come to fruition – from the initial consultation and planning on possible designs to the last phase of the scheme being completed.
“Most of us know the effort that goes into moving home,” says Julie. “Just imagine that effort multiplied 10,000 times and you might be a little closer to what it is like moving two hospitals into one.
“Behind-the-scenes planning has been crucial. We have an almost minute-by-minute plan of when we move a room or part of a ward, down to which bed goes when, which locker moves when and how we empty out offices and other rooms within the department.
“Our final operational commissioning plan has maybe half a million activities charting every single move. It requires that level of detail to make sure that during the whole transfer process, all of our patients remain safe and receive the best care.
“The move has and will involve everybody at some point and every one of those people has a contribution to make to patient care. The more people are informed, the better the move for patients, visitors and staff.”
None of it would work without the human element: the dedication, commitment, expertise, humanity and sheer hard work of our staff.
We had to understand that a move on this scale is a daunting process and to make sure that we had enough support within the system, so people could understand where they could get information and who was helping them manage the move.”
Julie sums up: “Each of the phased physical moves will be the real test, but we have done so much preparation that we are already at a stage where we can look back and say ‘Wow! We have really achieved something there’. I don’t think we’d be boasting if we said we can be truly proud of ourselves.”
Profile: Julie Moore
Julie Moore is chief executive of one of the largest hospital trusts in the country.
Born in Liverpool, she had originally planned to study astrophysics at university but switched to a nursing degree following a six-week stay in hospital in her teens.
Her first job was as a nurse at a hospital in Leeds in the early 1980s where she spent ten years in clinical practice before entering nurse management.
During her time as nurse manager and later nursing director, Julie undertook an MA in Health Services Studies at Leeds University and was seconded to work at the Department of Health on developing nursing roles.
After a year in general management, in 1998, Julie became a director in the newly merged Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust. She moved to Birmingham in 2002 to become the executive director of operations at University Hospitals Birmingham, where she was responsible for the day-to-day running of Selly Oak and the Queen Elizabeth.
In 2006, she was appointed chief executive of the country’s 10th biggest NHS trust, one of only two women in charge of a large teaching hospital in the UK.
- Consort Healthcare (Birmingham) has overall responsibility for financing, designing, building and managing the new hospital under the Government’s Private Finance Initiative scheme
- Lead contractor was Balfour Beatty Construction
- More than 10,000 tons of steel was used to build the new hospital – equivalent to the weight of 83 blue whales
- Approximately 225,000 cubic metres of ground was excavated – enough to fill 90 Olympic-sized swimming pools
- About 55,000 metres (35 miles) of concrete foundation piles were bored into the ground