Medical Architecture designs medium secure hospital in Northumberland

The new-build element, named Sycamore, was developed around the concept of a ‘village campus’ and arranged around a large recreation courtyard. It provides inpatient accommodation for 72 male patients with a range of forensic mental health needs, including patients with complex personality disorders and/or learning disabilities.

The courtyard is separated into two distinct character zones – ‘Passive’ and ‘Active’. The ‘Passive’ zone provides places to sit among plants and grasses, while the ‘Active’ zone includes a 200m jogging/walking loop, activity spaces and a fitness ‘trim trail’. A covered sports barn within the main reception building also allows activities to continue in all weathers.

Working closely with CNTW NHS Foundation Trust and our outstanding team of specialists, we are delighted to have delivered these state-of-the-art mental health facilities. The Sycamore building provides healthcare excellence for the benefits and welfare of patients in the region and their families.

The new facility sits to the east of the existing hospital and is flanked by an area of mature woodland with trees on three sides, providing a naturally therapeutic setting.

It is fantastic to see this important project realised. The technical requirements for forensic mental health buildings, particularly with regards to security, can present challenges to the creation of supportive and recovery-focused environments. However, standing in the thriving central courtyard, it is hard to tell you are in the middle of a forensic hospital. That normalising of the accommodation will have such a positive impact on patient wellbeing.

In addition, communal courtyard spaces sit at the centre of each ward, landscaped for relaxation, while between each pair of wards an activity courtyard with sports court markings is provided.

The project is a key part of the future delivery of modern and effective forensic mental health services in the North East. It was delivered through Cohort 1 of the NHS New Hospital Programme and forms part of the Trust’s £72.6 million Care Environment Development and Re-provision programme (CEDAR).

Start on site January 2021
Completion September 2023
Gross internal floor area 7,875m²
Gross (internal + external) floor area 27,512m²
Form of contract NEC3, procured through the Pagabo Contractor’s Framework. Delivered through the NHS New Hospital Programme
Construction cost £53 million
Architect Medical Architecture
Client NTW Solutions – Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust
Structural and civil engineer Billinghurst George & Partners
M&E consultant CAD21
Acoustic engineer SRL Technical Services
Landscape consultant Colour
Fire safety consultant Centurion Fire Safety Solutions
Art consultant Dan Savage Artstop Studios
BREEAM consultant Tetra Tech
Project manager Projeeco
CDM coordinator Richmond Safety Services
Building control Bluekeep Building Control
Main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine
CAD software used Revit

Environmental performance data

A key driver for the design was to promote recovery through activity, relieving boredom and mitigating the risk of challenging behaviours and poor physical health. So a wide variety of indoor and outdoor settings for relaxation and activity are provided – from bedrooms to living spaces, sheltered gardens to open courtyards, the latter allowing for structured and unstructured sports and activities.


Client’s view


This has been a fantastic scheme to deliver for CNTW and there was a true team spirit with all involved, especially with the clinical teams on site. That teamwork has paid off and it is inspiring to see the unit in use and heartening to hear the early feedback from clinicians about the quality of the accommodation. This is a flagship development, and it has set a new standard, not just for our future projects but for the whole mental health sector.

The bedrooms face outwards with views to the surrounding woodland and are fitted with bespoke furniture, devised to assist personal workouts while leaving adequate floor space for exercise. The majority of the daily activity and living spaces are at the centre of the ward with direct access into the courtyards.

On-site energy generation 26%
Annual mains water consumption Not supplied
Airtightness at 50Pa 3.45 m3/h.m2
Heating and hot water load 168 kWh/m2/yr
Overall area-weighted U-value 0.25 W/m2K
Design life 70 years (structure)
Embodied/whole-life carbon Not supplied
Annual CO2 emissions 26.63 kgCO2eq/m2
EPC rating A
BREEAM certificate On target for ‘Excellent’






The front reception building, the public frontage to the facility, contains a visible, publicly accessible café providing a welcoming space for visitors. This is adjoined by six patient wards, which are paired together and arranged around a large landscaped recreation courtyard: creating a secure boundary without the need for fences and so minimising the sense of confinement.


Architect’s view

The entire redevelopment provides a total of 116 male inpatient beds, located in a combination of new and reconfigured buildings, in a new facility that allows all secure services across the Trust to be consolidated.

John Carson, head of capital development, NTW Solutions

Source:Medical Architecture

Project data

Paul Yeomans, director, Medical Architecture

Mark Gibson, healthcare sector managing director, Sir Robert McAlpine