New £65m hospital in Morpeth using art and nature to create therapeutic environment for patients

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Art and nature play a crucial role in creating a therapeutic environment at the redeveloped Northgate Hospital site in Morpeth.

Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), a provider of mental health and disability services, began redeveloping the £65m site in 2021 as the existing buildings were outdated and unable to meet the needs of patients.

The construction of the Sycamore building is a major part of the redevelopment, now to be known as Northgate Park and due to open in the autumn.

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Sycamore is a state-of-the-art secure facility, providing assessment and treatment for men who have a mental illness, a learning disability or personality disorder who may have come into contact with the Criminal Justice System.

An artist's impression of Northgate Park.An artist's impression of Northgate Park.
An artist's impression of Northgate Park.

Around £60m has been invested in Sycamore, which will provide 72 beds across six wards. A further £5m has been spent on other parts of Northgate Park.

The Sycamore building has been designed to ensure patients can engage in a variety of meaningful activities, in purpose-built spaces including an education suite, art rooms, sport and exercise facilities, a workshop for woodwork and gardens.

Creating a therapeutic environment around other areas of the site is also important for patients’ wellbeing.

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York-based artist Dan Savage has been working closely with staff and patients to create artwork for the Sycamore buildings and outdoor surroundings.

Artwork in the cafe.Artwork in the cafe.
Artwork in the cafe.

Dan decided to create artwork for hospital settings after spending time in hospital being treated for cancer when he was halfway through his art degree.

Dan says: “I like creating art for hospital buildings because instead of making art for the elite or people who visit galleries, you’re creating it for people across society who need to spend time in hospitals.

“Whilst maintaining the security and safety of the buildings, it’s important to take opportunities to transform these clinical or safety features into art so that people feel better about the space.”

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A photography competition was held for patients, with the winning photographs of landscapes around the North East used on fences outside and internal privacy screens.

Dan hosted a consultation session with patients and staff to find out which images came to mind when they thought about the new ward names at Sycamore - Alwinton, Berwick, Elsdon, Harthope, Linhope and Rothbury and they became the focus for the artwork.