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The power of nature: new ICU garden offers respite for patients

Intensive care staff are using the joy of being outdoors to help critically ill patients recover, as a new Intensive Care Unit (ICU) garden, offering patients and their families a safe, tranquil place to spend precious time together opens at Tunbridge Wells Hospital as part of celebrations to mark the 74th birthday of the NHS.

ICU patients face a long battle back to health and may spend many weeks in hospital, which can be overwhelming. The garden lets patients have time away from the clinical area, so they are without the constant noises and beeps of medical devices. They can meet family, friends and under some circumstances even their pets outside.

Expert teams across Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust (MTW) deliver the most complex care available to around 1,000 critically ill patients every year, and the garden will help support the mental and physical wellbeing of ICU patients during what can be a very stressful and difficult time.

The garden features a paved area with raised flower beds and electrical points, so patients can enjoy the garden even if they still require support from specialist medical equipment.

The space is also being used by physiotherapy and occupational therapy teams for rehab, where it helps the patients to be in a different environment and as a break from their normal routine.

Jane Sansom, ICU Matron at Tunbridge Wells Hospital said: “we have been able to take patients into the garden for a couple of months now and there many benefits for them. Patient stays in ICU can be lengthy and very difficult. Patients can often become depressed and having an outside space that we can take them to can really help, and shows them that the real world is still waiting for them”.

Chief Executive of the Trust, Miles Scott, said, “the creation of this space is a testament to our exceptional teams who always strive to deliver outstanding care and to make our hospitals the best they can be for our patients. The ICU garden was made possible by donations to the Trust’s dedicated charity. Donations from our supporters touch the lives of patients, carers and staff across our hospitals, and we are hugely grateful for their generosity”.

As well as opening the garden, the “lasting impressions” tree artwork – marking the work of the community during Covid-19 and consisting of leaves sewn by members of the public – was unveiled by Miles Scott, alongside the Mayor of Tunbridge Wells, Godfrey Bland, and William Benson, Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

Trees were also planted at Tunbridge Wells Hospital and in Tunbridge Wells to commemorate Amelia Scott, one of the first women town councillors and a guardian of the workhouse which later became Pembury Hospital. Amelia played a key role in improving healthcare in the town, and the trees celebrate the lasting connection between Tunbridge Wells Borough and the Hospital.