Derriford's ICU Secret Garden

If you would like to donate to keep our garden looking lovely, please visit the Plymouth Hospitals Charity donate page.


Why do we love our Secret Garden?

Every year over 170,000 people are admitted into Intensive Care Units (ICU) in the UK. The individuals who survive their admission (75% approximately) are left with a collection of symptoms known as Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS). PICS is not a diagnosis but the beginning of a common language describing 3 domains of impairment seen after critical illness. These are physical impairment, cognitive impairment and psychological health problems.

Globally as medical care advances, mortality rates in ICU areas are reducing but this is leaving a growing population with a new burden of chronic ill health with over half of ICU survivors reporting impairment in two domains of PICS and a third in three.

ICU patients benefit from early psychological intervention, and ICU physical rehabilitation. The evidence is clear that early physical intervention in ICU is safe, feasible, improves functional outcomes, decreases ventilator days, reduces delirium and decreases ICU and hospital length of stay.

To that end it is imperative that ICU patients are given maximum exposure to rehabilitation during their ICU admission. The Secret Garden allows the whole inter-professional team to promote, enhance and facilitate rehabilitation in a non-clinical setting. Supporting patients and loved ones to feel normal and to engage with their rehabilitation needs and their future.

(Pictures below show the garden being utilised during the COVID-19 pandemic, prior to its transformation - see more below)

rehablegends rehab basketball  

A resilience space for staff

A King’s Fund report on gardens and health, funded by the National Garden Scheme found that the mental health benefits of gardening were broad and diverse, with reductions in depression and anxiety and improved social functioning, emotional well-being and physical health. This garden offers University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust the first ICU Rehabilitation space for patients, loved ones and staff in the south of the UK. This garden offers our staff a fresh air space for rest, in particular during the recent COVID-19 pandemic where the restrictions of personal protective equipment applied extra pressure to staff wellbeing.

A space for staff resilience


A Chelsea Garden

In 2020, prior to its transformation, the Secret Garden was adorned with a flower arrangement which was destined for the 2020 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, following a donation by Yeo Valley and garden designer Tom Massey. Read more here.

Garden plan

Here's how it would've looked at RHS Chelsea Flower Show (see above)

secret garden

We may be biased, but we think our secret Chelsea garden looked better! A huge thank you to Yeo Valley, Tom and the team


Official opening of the Secret Garden

On Friday 2 December the newly transformed ICU Secret Garden, the first of its kind in the south of England, was formally opened by former patient Andrew Heveren along with former patients, colleagues, our stakeholders and the people who worked tremendously hard to make this vision a reality.

Now, a bespoke garden room has been constructed, fitted with specialist equipment including piped oxygen, power, skylights, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and bi-fold doors, which extend the room’s use to the outside area. Harnessing the positive healing power of nature, the garden itself has been created by Mark Lane, garden designer and the first BBC gardening presenter in a wheelchair.

The garden’s woodland theme will now provide patients with the opportunity to be amongst tailored plants and trees in a private, controlled yet non-clinical looking environment, whilst still being connected to the medical equipment that they require. Wide, smooth paths, custom benches, screens and raised flower beds provide a sensory space and the skylights and glass walls will allow very unwell patients to be exposed to nature. This will reduce the level of risk to all ICU patients whilst increasing their safety and most importantly improve the hospital stays of patients when they want to spend time outside.

All of this has been made possible by generous grants and donations to UHP’s official NHS Charity, including money from NHS Charities Together, as well as a substantial contribution from the Trust. An external team also came together and donated valuable time and resources to help make this project a reality, including the Trust’s Capital Projects team, lead designers Bailey Partnership, engineering consultancy Hoare Lea and Nevada Construction. Despite facing some challenges, all worked collaboratively to design, deliver and build this amazing place within the heart of the hospital.

An artist impression of the new development

An artist impression of the new development (above)

What do people say about our Secret Garden?

What our patients say:

  • "You will never know, how important this visit has been"
  • "I finally know what time of the day it is"
  • "Going into the garden, it made me feel alive again"
  • "The Chelsea Flowers have been spectacular"
  • "I love it out here"
  • "Thank you so much for allowing me to bring in my dog, I haven't seen him for months and i had missed him so so much"
  • " I cant tell you how much his visit means" 
  • “The remarkable thing is, they kept me in this condition [an induced coma] for all this time and I very nearly dropped out a lot of times during it. But the big breakthrough moment was when they wheeled me down into this wonderful new thing they’ve got which is an intensive care garden, where you are in the open air with flowers. It sounds silly but it is really extraordinary, and my moment when I came through was when I was wheeled out into this garden, the sun was on my face, I had all these tubes and things and four people pushing this big bed with everything leading from it, and with the sun on my face, suddenly, I came out of it…. I think everywhere should have secret gardens in their hospitals."

What their loved ones say:

  • “Myself and my family feel that the garden is a really valuable space for my mum to be able to visit while she is in hospital and have noticed how her trip outside really brightened her and us up. Being able to breathe fresh ait and feel the sun on her skin has helped her greatly. This is a small piece of normality for her and a chance where we can be together away from the machines, noises and daily bustle of the ward.”

  • “It’s something most of us take for granted, but for those patients, their family/loved ones and those caring for them the opportunity to see the sky, breath fresh air and feel part of the real world again is an enormously uplifting thing, giving patients something to aim for and look forward to.”
  • “Having an area to see, and feel, sunlight for a man who will ultimately spend a lot of hours confined in a side room, will give our dad something to look forward and aspire to get to. Having a rehab plan that is inclusive of going outside, seeing the weather, listening to different sounds of the city, is something that would inspire patients to push themselves further each day. It is important to add however, that this isn’t just limited to the rehab of our Dad, but also would serve equal importance to many other patients and their families who may be experiencing similar feelings of fear and anxiety toward what the future may hold. Having a peaceful area to enjoy this time with their loved ones is something that could distract from this feeling.”

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