News and Events

Transforming the Intensive Care Rehabilitation Garden

The much loved ‘Secret Garden’ based in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Derriford Hospital is about to undergo a huge transformation.

The Secret Garden is a private space which can be used by patients and their loved one at every stage of their critical illness. Since the garden opened on Christmas Eve 2018, it has been used as a space for staff, patients, their families and their pets.

Joint funding from Plymouth Hospitals Charity, University Hospitals Plymouth and NHS Charities Together will now see the garden be completely transformed into the UK’s first bespoke outdoor rehabilitation space. Generous donations from the local community have allowed Plymouth Hospitals Charity to fund £250,000 towards this incredible space which will be the first of its kind.

Artist impression of garden room

(Images provided by Bailey Partnership)

The new rehabilitation garden room will improve capacity by mitigating weather and prolonging visiting times. It will have piped oxygen, power, skylights, glass walls and the feeling of bringing the outside in. Wide, smooth paths, benches, screens and raised flower beds will provide a sensory space and the skylights and glass walls will allow very unwell patients to be exposed to nature. They will be able to feel the sun on their face and reconnect with the world outside, aiding their recovery and giving back their sense of self.

“We are very passionate about supporting patients in their recovery,” said Specialist Sister, Kate Tantam. “Taking people outside may seem like a small intervention but it’s massive for their mood and quality of life. There is nothing like feeling the cool air outdoors when you’ve been in hospital. It makes you feel normal. By taking people outside, you’re giving people back themselves.

“Our goal is to support rehabilitation for every patient, to make it better for every patient and to provide a fresh air space for every patient. Rehab matters and everybody has a right to rehabilitation.

“This garden also offers us the capacity to provide care outside for patients at every stage of their life, including the ability to support end of life care. This garden room is totally unique and supports our goal as a department to humanise and personalise our patients and their loved ones experience of being in hospital."

Every year, up to 3,000 patients and 6,000 relatives will come through the doors of the Intensive Care Unit. The garden has become an incredibly important space to help patients and their loved ones connect with reality outside of a typical hospital setting. Over the last few years the garden has been utilised not only for patient rehabilitation but for birthdays, celebrating weddings and staff wellbeing. The space has proved particularly important during the pandemic when COVID patients were able to be taken outside to help them gain a sense of normality.

Corinne Bailey, Plymouth Hospitals Charity Manager said: “It has been an absolute privilege to work alongside the Trust, NHS Charities Together, some incredible fundraisers and most importantly Kate Tantam and her team; to be able to fund their vision of what is to be an extraordinary benefit for patients.

Artist impression of garden room (interior) “To have this green space and these ‘outdoor’ ICU beds available for patients is quite remarkable and we are so grateful for so much local support for our NHS Charity. Legacies left to us for the benefit of patients have really made this happen and the Secret Garden, secret no more, will be a restorative and uplifting space that we hope will play a large part in recovery for so many people over the coming years.”

The project launched in January 2022 and is due to be completed in early summer.

Plymouth Hospitals Charity is on a mission to increase the green spaces at Derriford Hospital. There are currently a number of ongoing projects aiming to create outdoor spaces which we hope will benefit staff and patients for many years to come. To find out more and to support these projects, please visit: www.plymouthhospitalscharity.co.uk