Health in cities - architecture, sustainability and innovation


Our future of healthcare discussions in Liverpool last month, with Royal College of Physicians North, Sensor City, the Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals and Rutherford Diagnostics, raised questions around the best ways to use data and robotics to improve patient outcomes, the value of private investment to the NHS in pushing forward state-of-the-art cancer treatment and the importance of high-quality architecture in creating sustainable health and innovation hubs to attract the best clinical and research talent.

The content collected at this forum followed our Healthy Cities debates at Apothecaries' Hall in January involving UCL, King's College London and Moorfields Eye Hospital. Watch out for our forthcoming report, drawing all this valuable insight together.

Deputy Chief Executive of the Royal College of Physicians, Clive Constable, began our life sciences and healthcare panel discussion at Future Cities Forum in Liverpool with a reference to Herman Melville's observation about Liverpool in 1849: 'In magnitude, cost and durability, the docks of Liverpool, even at the present day surpass all others in the world...like a chain of immense fortresses'. One hundred and seventy years on the RCP has started construction on its own 'northern fortress' in the Knowledge Quarter Liverpool, with the aim of reinforcing member and community connections across the north while influencing debates about future health. Clive said:

'With 36,000 members across the country, we are consistently accused of being London-centric but the RCP North is already up and running (in our interim home). The city council has been terrific in enabling the planning and construction of our new building. where the design reflects health and well-being with 'the Spine' name derived from the structure of the staircase.

Professor Alison Ewing, Professor of Pharmacy Innovation at Liverpool John Moores University commented further on the healthcare buildings of Liverpool and frustrations of waiting for the new NHS hospital, the Royal Liverpool, to come on stream in the wake of the Carillion collapse. Despite this, innovation remains at the core of what she does and she said:

'If you sit still you die, so innovation in what we do is crucial...pharmacy is often seen as a twilight profession but I manage 450 staff across four hospitals and a drugs budget of upwards of £180 million. I am proud of the determination in Liverpool. as we now have a tripartite research centre for pharmacy which has taken eight years to create, and it is unique in the country.

Commenting on health and social care integration she said:

'We are looking to integrate and put far more pharmacists into GP surgeries. By integrating hospital and GP pharmacies we can set up a network to look after the chronically sick, those people with conditions like high blood pressure, and asthma. We have been forward looking on robotics and automation, and we first introduced this to our Aintree Hospital NHS Trust dispensary in 2002, and this freed up staff to work more closely with patients.

Sensor City Chief Executive, Joanne Phoenix, talked about tapping into the cohesive community of health and bio-sciences in Liverpool:

'This urban ecosystem of companies and university research is very important. It is Sensor City's role as one of only four enterprise research zones in the country to offer support and connections for young technology companies. We are talking hardware - like real-time environmental testing with Hexagon Scientific which analyses contaminants in air, soil and water - through to AI approaches to analysis and transmitting data and we look for synergies between companies.

'We are trying to bring companies into the region, providing infrastructure for them. This inner city cluster we have at the Knowledge Quarter is an urban science park, so we need clean air zones. We have a wonderful roof terrace which takes in views of the universities, and the Baltic triangle so you can see that you can walk everywhere, We are keen on the smart infrastructure project within the city region with an open data structure. That has worked well in London with Transport for London'

Ron Russell, Chief Operating Officer of the privately owned Rutherford Diagnostics, which is also located in Liverpool's Knowledge Quarter, alongside one of the UK's four Rutherford Cancer Centres, responded to a question about promoting a unified Liverpool and North West healthcare offer:

'We have to stop being coy, as we have a great story to tell with centres of excellence like Alder Hey, and the Walton Centre. If we join up we can bring more income into the city, which will have a trickle-down impact. To attract the best clinicians in the UK you need to offer exciting work, access to top technology, opportunities for research, and you have to develop the education offer, bringing buildings, infrastructure and people together to make the city and region a destination. When I travel abroad I hear that the UK has great story - in healthcare and life sciences - but we don't tell it well. In Liverpool we can challenge anywhere and you will get world class treatment.

We will be discussing how the built environment can create better health and well-being for older people through inter-generational living at our next forum this month in London. Please also join us for our filmed series on innovation, data and AI in healthcare and our bio-sciences and cluster conference in Cambridge in the autumn.


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