Tracey Sopp, our Managing Director, visited the Sycamore Unit at Northgate Park to meet with our Capital Team who have delivered this major development for Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW). She heard about the scale of the project, a large 72 bed medium secure facility, and saw for herself that the facilities really have the wow factor. She also heard about the challenges that the project has faced, from Covid-19 to Brexit disrupting supply chains to rising inflation.
Tracey heard how the setup of the Capital Team is one that other large organisations are particularly envious of because of the embedded knowledge which is deployed in each scheme that we deliver. This means that the learning from every new build or refurbishment is then literally built into the next project. The result is that some of the facilities we have delivered for CNTW are some of the best in the country and in many cases are world class.
Tracey saw an example of this in the shape of a toilet roll holder which is built into the bedrooms of the Sycamore unit. Back in 2010 the team weren’t able to find something which was compliant with demanding mental health environments. They invented their own unique toilet roll holder based on a mould of a golf ball which holds the toilet roll in place.
Another example is the door signage throughout the unit which the team developed alongside clinical teams when Roker and Mowbray were developed, again because they believed they could do better than what was available. Both the toilet roll holder and door signage have been incorporated into every development since and the team continue to innovate. They are both great examples of the depth of the knowledge the teams have about mental health hospital environments.
Tracey had been involved in the development of the whole CEDAR capital programme and Sycamore in particular and had seen various business cases and been in a wide range of meetings about the scheme. She was very impressed to see it in real life, literally taking her breath away she entered the central courtyard at the scale and quality of the scheme.
She heard about the challenges the team had faced in delivering the scheme, including Brexit which disrupted supply chains. Then there was the huge and unexpected shock of COVID which shut down the site completely, and led to restrictions in working practices when it reopened. With Sycamore being included in the New Hospitals Programme they team also faced additional oversight from central government that they hadn’t had to contend with before. Alongside rapidly rising inflation, the war in Ukraine, the closure of the Suez Canal, and lockdowns in China meant the team faced the most external challenges of any project they have delivered.
The variety of the role and a strong sense of teamwork is what keeps the team together. The life cycle of a project means that no day is ever the same as they move from consultation with clinical teams and the drawing up of plans right the way through to the handover of the building. The completion of Sycamore means that the team is focusing on other projects, including the re purposing of the Bamburgh Clinic at St Nicholas hospital, ongoing redevelopment of Ferndene, and refurbishment schemes in Cumbria, in particular at the Hadrian Unit.