Healing Garden opens for Critical Care Patients

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The installation of external piped medical gases, amongst the first of any NHS Trust

A new rehabilitation and sensory garden for critically-ill patients has opened at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro. The ceremony was conducted by Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE, explorer and founder of Survival International.

The new Critical Care Healing Garden is located immediately below the Critical Care Unit at the Royal Cornwall Hospital. It has been filled with sensory plants, two outdoor hospital bed spaces, a rehabilitation bridge, and peaceful seating areas for families, carers and staff. Beautiful bird sculptures made from Cornwall granite and bronze, donated by Cornish artist, Kurt Jackson, complete the space.

Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE cutting the ribbon with an RCHT staff member to open the new healing garden.
Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE was on hand to cut the ribbon alongside Kym Vigus, Sister on the Critical Care Unit

The courtyard is also one of the first therapeutic gardens in the country to have medical gases directly piped into a dedicated outdoor space. This enables patients to spend as much time as they can experiencing the natural environment and its healing powers.

The design, creation and installation of the Healing Garden has been funded entirely by charitable donation. Much of the money raised has come from Robin Hanbury-Tenison and his wife, Louella’s magnificent fundraising campaign.

Robin, who lives in Cornwall, believes that the Healing Garden at University Hospitals Plymouth saved his life after he contracted Covid-19. He vowed to encourage all acute hospitals in the UK to create critical care gardens. Kym Vigus, RCHT Critical Care Staff Nurse, has also long campaigned to create a Healing Garden at the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

The design for the Critical Care Healing Garden was created by Cornish landscape design company, Lavigne Lonsdale. They were inspired to create a stunning, yet practical, garden following consultation with staff and ex-patients from the Critical Care Unit.

Initial consultancy and cost advice was donated free of charge by Truro-based property and construction consultants, Ward Williams Associates.

The new healing garden at RCHT Treliske

Cornish civil engineering contractor Cormac Ltd, together with South West Surfacing Specialists Ltd, built the garden with local materials and meticulous attention to detail. Expert Cornwall-based gardeners – Alasdair Moore from Heligan, Charles Fox from Glendurgan and Mark Holman, the Palace Gardener – came together to design the vibrant planting scheme.

RCHT Project Manager, Rob Hague, has seen the garden through the construction and gas installation phases.

The entire project has also been filmed voluntarily by local filmmaker, Peter Champness. He is producing a local documentary for RCHT about the creation of the Critical Care Healing Garden.

“My wife, Louella, and I are absolutely delighted to see this wonderful Critical Care Healing Garden officially opened today,” says Robin Hanbury-Tenison OBE. “It’s been three years since we started on the journey to create this oasis of calm and tranquillity. I hope that many critically ill patients here at the Royal Cornwall Hospital, together with their outstanding team of healthcare professionals and carers, will benefit from the healing and rehabilitation powers of the great outdoors for years to come.

It has been a tremendous team effort and I want to thank all the RCHT staff and contractors who have been involved with the project, as well as the army of donors, supporters and volunteers. Their generosity, knowledge and kindness have made it possible.”

“This Critical Care Healing Garden is a huge asset to our unit,” adds Kym Vigus, RCHT Critical Care Staff Nurse. “Patients can come down to the courtyard to feel the fresh air and see the sky, to smell the plants and hear birdsong. That is very special. These positive experiences will help them on their individual pathways to recovery.”

Two figures standing on a bridge in the RCHT Healing Garden

Andy Berryman, Cormac’s Infrastructure Operations Contract Manager says: “Cormac is really proud to have helped create this garden. It looks fantastic, and it will provide a pleasant and peaceful space for patients to connect with nature.”

“This is an exceptionally important day for the Royal Cornwall Hospital,” says Steve Williamson, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust. “We’re excited to be amongst the first NHS Trusts in England to have enabled piped medical gases directly into our new Critical Care Healing Garden. It will be so beneficial to our most vulnerable and sickest patients.

To have such a beautifully-designed space at the heart of our hospital is superb. I want to thank everyone who has played a part in creating this very special place. I know our dedicated Critical Care team is very grateful and are looking forward to using the space to continue delivering outstanding care.”

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