Lambeth CCC case study

Lambeth Community Care Centre (Community Hospital)

Summary

Lambeth Community Care Centre (LCCC) was built in 1985 as an innovative 'intermediate care centre' between home and hospital. It is nurse-led with 16 inpatient beds in a home style environment and specialises in rehabilitation. A particular feature of LCCC is its beautiful gardens and terraces.

Project Description

All the wards look out onto the gardens behind, an oasis of natural life in this densely built city - one of London’s ‘secret’ gardens.

Clever manipulation of levels means that the garden is very accessible, including direct access into the garden from first floor rooms for those in wheelchairs or who are ambulant. Despite lots of slopes and banks, most of the garden is also accessible to wheelchairs (and therefore stick users too, or those just unsteady on their feet).

For those who can get out of bed but are still too frail to walk around the garden, the first floor terrace offers an ‘in-between’ space where you can enjoy the sunshine and look through the tree canopy. A large conservatory also allows access to nature whilst keeping out of the cold. There is a good relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces: large picture windows mean lots of natural daylight inside and the garden is visible from beds, invaluable for those who are unable to get up.

The gardens have won prizes in a range of competitions: London Gardens Society, the Green Corner awards, Lambeth Estates in Bloom and London Hospitals. They are cared for by a dedicated gardener, who is a part-time NHS employee and staunch defender of the garden. She is aided by two volunteers with support from contractors where necessary. Apart from this one salary, the costs are met from plant sales and teas sold on the annual open garden weekend. The gardens are furnished with seats and urns given as commemorative items or as gifts. The Friends of LCCC also support the garden, for example providing replacement bird boxes.

The garden is used not only by patients, but also staff and visitors, especially when families bring young children to visit. The Friends of LCCC hold an annual garden party in July. In the summer, the Gateway Clinic holds its free exercise classes in the garden.

Key Achievement

Senior NHS management and clinicians recognise the health benefits of the garden and it has always been seen as an asset not a liability. As a result, considerable resources in terms of maintenance have been invested in the garden over time. This has reaped dividends with the garden feeling homely and well-cared for: rather than just being the work of a designer, the design of the original framework (levels, planting etc) has long since been eclipsed by the numerous personal touches which indicate the imprint of a caring gardener.

What are the health benefits?

Anyone living in a city will benefit from the calming influence of nature – it reduces stress, relaxes the brain and offers gentle stimulation. This is even more important when we are suffering illness or have spent time in sterile indoors environments. The LCCC gardens offer a range of natural health services: simply looking out on a natural view can assist recovery; contact with nature can reduce blood pressure, muscle tension and pulse rate and allow our immune system to function more effectively; exposure to daylight and gentle walking can improve mood; meanwhile the trees and plants provide a rich sensory experience.

The garden being so well-cared-for makes you feel as though you would be well-cared-for too, if you were here as a patient.

A Friend's perspective

“It is important to recognise that this level of garden care cannot be achieved without a dedicated champion. The LCCC gardener is a part-time NHS employee. Contractors do not have the skills, enthusiasm or interest to achieve or maintain this level of care.

Ideally the gardener/s should be permanent staff of the parent institution, rather than contract gardeners, as the former are more likely to ensure continuity of garden care over the seasons and years”.

Lessons learnt

  • This garden shows the importance of a dedicated champion, who in this case is a part-time NHS employee. It feels like someone's special garden, rather than just an anonymous area of greenery, so it is a joy to explore and linger.
  • An essential element for a therapeutic garden is that it must have its own ring-fenced budget, sufficient to cover the salary of skilled gardening staff, and appropriate materials and resources for their work.
  • A therapeutic garden should also include a fountain/water feature as a basic element of the design.
  • LCCC now caters for patients who are much more ill than was originally anticipated. So although patients could theoretically work in the garden as part of their rehabilitation, most are too ill.
  • The engagement of the local community is a key factor. LCCC history is rooted in the community and this relationship is continued by the Friends of LCCC, who have a strong working relationship with the gardener and her team and help on the open garden weekend. Members of North Lambeth community appreciate and support the garden.

Contact:

Mille Abello, Gardener (Mondays and Thursdays only)

OR Jeff James, Facilities Manager, Lambeth Community Care Centre, Monkton Street, SE11 4TX

Phone: 02030-496910