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CABE chief sounds 'blot on the landscape'hospitals warning

A string of new hospitals across the country are heading for design disaster, the chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, Sir Stuart Lipton, has warned.

The NHS is planning to invest in about 12 new hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative during the next two years, but many of these new buildings are 'destined to become blots on the landscape unless health bosses agree to urgent design changes', Sir Stuart said last week.

CABE is particularly concerned about hospitals which have been procured through the PFI, and a panel of top architects last month saw three examples at a secret meeting with senior NHS Estates executives. The planned University College Hospital in London by Llewelyn-Davies; Norwich and Norfolk Hospital by Anshen Dyer Architects; and Worcester Royal Infirmary by RTKL were all scrutinised by Sunand Prasad, Ian Ritchie and Richard Fielden, among others.

Sir Stuart is understood to have particular concerns about University College Hospital and further investigations revealed hospitals in the pipeline which were also of a substandard design, he said. He stopped short of naming the designers.

CABE spokesman Robert Bargery claimed that some of the first wave of PFI jobs have gone too far to be changed, but added: 'The question is now whether CABE can get involved in the second and third phases. The problem is that procurement is carried out by each of the 400 NHS Trusts across the country. We have proposed that each trust should have a design champion.'

An NHS Estates spokesman agreed that there is a problem. 'There is always a need to improve the design quality of hospitals and we are in discussions about how to do this, ' he said.

Sir Stuart also called on architects to use more standardised design details, such as fire escapes and toilets, in order to achieve greater profits.'For me around 70 per cent of a building can be standardised, ' he said. 'If the industry cuts down on the number of new details it might see its profits grow.Architects should be spending more time on quality and elements which affect the whole-life cost of buildings.'

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