Sunderland Royal Hospital unit a world leader

Demonstrating the glass walls which can be turned from transparent to opaque at the click of a switch. New ICCU Integrated Critical care Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
Demonstrating the glass walls which can be turned from transparent to opaque at the click of a switch. New ICCU Integrated Critical care Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.
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“NOT just one of the best in the country - but possibly the world.”

That was just one description of Sunderland Royal Hospital’s new hi-tech Integrated Critical Care Unit (ICCU), which will open on Monday.

Staff Nurse Helen Smithson, who weighs about eight and a half stones in one of the chairs designed for patients weighing more than 40 stones.'New ICCU Integrated Critical care Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Staff Nurse Helen Smithson, who weighs about eight and a half stones in one of the chairs designed for patients weighing more than 40 stones.'New ICCU Integrated Critical care Unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

About 1,200 critically-ill and high dependency patients a year will benefit from the advanced facilities at the 18-bed unit, some of which are being used for the first time anywhere.

Setting up the ICCU, part of a new £28million ward block, has seen input from staff, patients and relations.

It has also involved taking the best practices and technology from places such as China, Texas, Germany, Scandinavia and Hawaii.

And now other hospitals worldwide are looking to Wearside as the role model for developing a new intensive care facility.

Unit manager David McNicholas said: “This is one of the most carefully designed intensive care units in the country.

“It gives patients and their families the reassurance that they are receiving the best possible treatment in the most modern of settings, with the latest equipment and the most highly trained staff.”

The new ICCU - backed by a 120-strong team - was developed with a focus on infection control and hygiene, and privacy and dignity of users.

The 13 main single rooms are soundproof, and surrounded by special panoramic glass – which becomes opaque at the flick of a switch – giving staff the best possible view of patients from the central ICCU staff corridor.

“We call it bling glass,” said Mr McNicholas. “The idea came from one of our consultants, from watching Grand Designs on TV.”

To aid infection control and a clean patient environment, the trust’s consultant microbiologist Roland Koerner has developed specially designed dirty water disposal.

Also, each room includes unique clinical waste bins on the back walls, which enable material to be emptied directly from the ICCU rooms to the external corridor, reducing the risk of infection to patients.

New equipment includes one of the most advanced electronic patient monitoring systems, with Sunderland being the first place in the world to get it.

The ICCU has four barrier rooms, where the door to the main staff corridor stays shut after the patient is admitted, until they leave.

Entrance in between is via an air-lock system.

The rooms are for people with a high risk of infection, and can also deal with extreme infection cases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

The ICCU will use an electronic pharmacy system. Fingerprint recognition allows safer dispensing of drugs by staff, and improved stock control.

Another room one which doubles as a care and training room as it is equipped with a two-way mirror, microphones and cameras.

The department is fund-raising to buy a £60,000 specialist ICCU training mannequin.