30 September 2020

New Intensive Care Unit opens

A £22m state-of-the-art intensive care unit that will provide 22 new beds for the south’s most critically ill patients will be opened at University Hospital Southampton this week.

Doctors and nurses have played a key role in the design of the new facility which sits next to the front entrance of the hospital.

It has taken 18 months to build and has been officially handed over to University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust by contractors BAM.

Specialist equipment is now being moved in to the flagship building and staff have been familiarising themselves with the new facility that is joined to the current ICU, which will undergo refurbishment next year, adding further capacity.

Around 2,500 patients are treated in the ICU in Southampton every year. All of them have severe, life-threatening conditions ranging from serious infections to injuries from major accidents.

Since the start of the pandemic the existing ICU has also cared for more than 100 patients with Covid-19 who required critical care support including ventilation because of breathing complications.

However, the unit has become outdated. It is dark because of a lack of windows and in need of modernising – which BAM will start next spring. The new ICU takes up the first floor of a five-storey block and has been paid for by savings made by the Trust.

Joined to the existing facility, the new 1400-metre square unit can be accessed through a linking corridor. As well as being considerably bigger in size, it includes contemporary lighting, interchangeable windows, hoists to easily manoeuvre patients and innovative storage space for staff.

It also features a specialist rehabilitation area where patients can now have physiotherapy without the need to be taken to another part of the hospital.

And it will be kitted out thanks to Southampton Hospitals Charity, which has launched a £1m fundraising campaign to pay for the rehabilitation area, a palliative care suite, relatives quiet room, a dedicated rest area where staff can take a break, as well as decorative items.

Former patient Claire Danson, from Hampshire, says she owes her life to the team at Southampton. A European triathlete champion, Claire was on the cusp of becoming a professional but her dream was shattered following a crash with a tractor while she was on a training ride last August.

She was transferred to UHS by air ambulance but had suffered a catalogue of life-changing injuries including breaking every bone in her neck, both shoulders and severing her spine, which left her paralysed from the waist down. Claire, 34, said:

My family was told there was a strong chance I wouldn’t survive, but it’s thanks to the amazing team in the intensive care unit at Southampton that I am here. They literally saved my life.

It’s an honour to come back and meet the team and see this incredible new unit where they can continue their life saving work for patients like me in the future.”

Sanjay Gupta, clinical lead for intensive care at UHS, said:

Our team has always achieved outstanding outcomes but the new intensive care unit brings us an environment that is modern, spacious, innovative and full of light where we can continue to provide the very best care for the most critically ill patients.

It will also be tremendous for recovering patients, with a dedicated rehabilitation area as well as providing a private space for grieving families in the palliative care suite.”

Joe Teape, chief operating officer at UHS, said:

This is a really proud moment for our Trust and an illustration of what UHS is able to achieve when we work together in even the most demanding of circumstances.

This year has seen unparalleled challenge for our organisation, and so to be able to deliver this state-of-the art unit on time and on budget whilst managing our response to the Covid pandemic, is truly remarkable and more importantly enables us to continue delivering the very best outcomes for our patients.”

Matt Crookes, project manager at BAM, said the build had been particularly challenging due to Covid, with a crumbling supply chain and a workforce that largely disappeared overnight at the start of lockdown until the build was classified as “essential NHS work”. He said:

At the height of the pandemic when 1,000 people a day were dying in Britain I had to use all my interpersonal skills to motivate people, reassure them and keep momentum going.

I’m exceptionally proud of what we have achieved, working closely with the team at UHS throughout and delivering the project on time despite facing unprecedented challenges.”


Last updated: 30.9.2020. Joint press release between University Hospital Southampton and Southampton Hospitals Charity.

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