£6.3m Sheffield Hallamshire Hospital unit to offer best in critical care

Quality care: The new unit and Deputy Nurse Director Catherine Bailey.
Quality care: The new unit and Deputy Nurse Director Catherine Bailey.
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SEVERELY-ILL patients will from next week receive treatment in a new state-of-the-art critical care ward at Sheffield’s Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

In an exclusive tour of the £6.3 million unit, nurses and doctors showed The Star around the 29-bed ward, kitted out with the latest medical equipment.

The light and airy ward takes over an entire floor, high in the Royal Hallamshire tower. And from next Monday, it will provide intensive and high-dependency care for patients with life-threatening conditions or following major surgery.

The development gives the hospital an extra five critical care beds and brings neurology patients together with general critical care for the first time.

The idea is to put all intensive and high-dependency patients in the hospital on the same floor - and give them access to the best equipment and care.

Guy Veall, clinical director of critical care at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “The modern unit will allow our staff to continue providing the best possible quality care to our patients in a much-improved environment.

Most of the hi-tech equipment on the ward is hanging from the ceiling or fixed to wheels.

Catherine Bailey, deputy nurse director for critical care, said: “Nothing is fixed down to the floor.

“It means everything is much easier to clean - which is really important for infection control - and you can move things around.”

Other modern developments on the ward - which has taken a year to build - include side rooms in which medics can control the air pressure depending on the patient’s needs.

Ms Bailey said: “We can control all the airflows.

“We have had a special plant built on this floor to control air pressure in every room.”

If someone has a highly-contagious disease, such as bird flu or SARS , the room can be given a negative pressure, so bugs do not flow out into the rest of the ward.

Alternatively, if patients are vulnerable - for example if they have had a bone marrow transplant - the room is given positive air pressure so contaminating air is kept out.

Other modern features include panes of glass - at £3,000 a sheet - which can be switched from clear to translucent at the flick of a button. The technology allows patients to have privacy if they want it, doing away with the age-old curtains.

The overwhelming impression on the ward, sited on the hospital’s K floor, is one of space.

Dr Chris Scott, a critical care consultant, said: “There are 26 sq metres per bed, which is much more than on a normal ward.”

Until now the general critical care unit has been in the Hallamshire basement, in a windowless unit on the hospital’s A-floor.

Dr Scott said: “It’s not been ideal, but it’s been a temporary fix as we knew this ward was coming. We’ve been looking forward to moving up here.”

Professor Graham Venables, clinical director of neurosciences, said: “By locating two specialities on the unit, staff will be able to work closely together and continue to provide the best possible care to our patients.”