Green light for National Rehabilitation Centre

Thursday, 21 September 2023
  • Government approves £105 million new clinical rehabilitation programme
  • NHS facility, hosted and delivered by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH), to be built alongside Ministry of Defence centre creating opportunities for shared learning and expertise
  • Forms part of the Government’s New Hospital Programme (NHP)
  • Targeted to be treating patients from early 2025
  • New 70-bed centre near Loughborough will include research, training and education alongside clinical care delivered by NUH staff
  • Unique opportunity to transform rehabilitation within the NHS, helping more patients regain their quality of life following serious injury or illness and potentially save the country millions in lost working hours

For the first time, the UK will have a ‘National Rehabilitation Centre’ (NRC) following Government approval for the plans announced today (21 September 2023).

Approval by HM Treasury means work on the site (near Loughborough in the East Midlands) can now start in earnest, creating a 70-bed, purpose-built and highly energy efficient new facility as part of the Government’s New Hospital Programme. The specialist NHS facility will be built on the Stanford Hall Rehabilitation Estate, already home to the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre which opened in 2018.

Combining patient care delivered by staff from Nottingham University Hospitals with research, innovation and training, the centre’s objective is to act as the National hub to transform how people recover and regain fitness and function following serious injury or illness, and to widen access to rehabilitation beds.

The unique opportunity to pioneer innovative new approaches to rehabilitation, including new technologies, with real time feedback from clinicians and patients, is a clinical model that it is hoped will be rolled out across the country. This will be enabled not least via an academic partnership led by the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University.

The green light for the NRC affirms the initiative set in motion by the 6th Duke of Westminster who wanted to do something to help people seriously injured in the service of their country and, having proposed to build a new Defence facility to replace Headley Court, was asked by the then Secretary of State, Lord (Des) Browne if he might “do something for the nation too”. The Duke agreed and the concept of creating both a Defence and an NHS specialist facility – working together and sharing expertise for mutual benefit on a single site – was developed in 2010 and led, following a gift from the Grosvenor family of more than £100 million, to the Defence establishment taking its first patients in 2018. The now approved NRC will be constructed 400 metres from the Defence facility (which is called ‘DMRC Stanford Hall’).

The fundamental purpose of the NRC is to enable better outcomes for people who have been seriously injured or experienced debilitating illness.

Similar to the investment in UK Major Trauma Centres – of which NUH is one – which has transformed the survival rates of people who have suffered serious injury, the objective through the NRC is to get more people back to the maximum quality of life after they have been injured or unwell. From the outset, the NRC concept was that it would become a national hub which could over time lead to similar rehabilitation centres across the NHS, mirroring the trauma network.

Current return to fitness and return to work rates in the UK lag behind other European nations – as well as being approximately half the level achieved within the Armed Forces. This is creating significant health, social and economic disadvantage for the nation.

This is an important statement of UK Government support to - and confidence in - the East Midlands and recognises both national and local need for world-class rehabilitation patient services, education and research.”
Clive Roberts, Prof Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham

Miriam Duffy, NRC Programme Director at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said:

“The National Rehabilitation Centre will transform how we provide clinical rehabilitation in this country. This long overdue centre will push the boundaries of rehabilitation for the next generation and bring real impact in terms of helping people to realise their full potential following injury or illness.”

The NRC plans have been brought forward by NUH, leading a specific NRC Programme with support from health and academic partners including the University of Nottingham and Loughborough University. Following a formal decision-making process including an assessment of the clinical and business cases for the facility, the green light is an endorsement of its need and the contribution it will make across patient care, research and commercial innovation.

The NRC will be both a regional and a national and international facility. It will primarily treat patients from the East Midlands region (replacing and upgrading existing services in Nottingham) but setting the blueprint for the roll-out of a regional model across the country while undertaking teaching and research as well as commercial research and development in ways that are national and internationally significant.

The Government approval means construction of the NRC can start in earnest, with contracts exchanged between NUH and its construction partner Integrated Health Projects (IHP), a joint venture between VINCI Construction UK and Sir Robert McAlpine.

Health Minister, Lord Markham, said:

This is a significant milestone. The new 70 bed National Rehabilitation Centre will bring the latest research and training into clinical settings, not only helping people recover and live more independently after serious injury or illness but also freeing up clinician time so they can continue to cut waiting lists.

“This demonstrates further delivery on our commitment to build 40 new hospitals by 2030, to ensure staff and patients benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and modern technology.”

Clive Roberts, Prof Vice-Chancellor, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham, said:

"It is wonderful news for the East Midlands region that the NRC has received Treasury approval. The University of Nottingham’s partnership with the National Rehabilitation Centre, Loughborough University and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust represents an essential part of our commitment to uplifting - through our leadership in research and education - the health of the people in our region and across the UK. This is an important statement of UK Government support to - and confidence in - the East Midlands and recognises both national and local need for world-class rehabilitation patient services, education and research.”

Pip Logan, Professor of Rehabilitation Research and Occupational Therapist, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, added:

“It’s a pleasure to celebrate this great news. The University of Nottingham is recognised as a world-leading institution in rehabilitation research and teaching, and this fantastic new integrated facility within our portfolio means our training courses in rehabilitation, alongside our research in robotics, physiology, mental health, rehab technology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, rehab medicine and rehab nursing, become fully embedded with patients, families, clinical professionals and industry.

“Our work will have real impact on patients’ lives. We’ll be developing and evaluating rehabilitation to support people living independently, get people back into work, and help improve mental health outcomes for patients across a range of health and social care settings. We especially look forward to working collaboratively with all of our partners on this project and with the defence rehabilitation centre, which is on the same site as the NRC.”

The designs for the NRC are inspired by best practice from around the world with the facility purpose-planned and purpose-designed around the patient. The new building will be carbon net zero.

The NRC will share some specialist facilities with the DMRC such as the hydrotherapy pool, gait lab and CAREN (Computer Assisted Rehabilitation Environment) which is a high-tech treadmill device to help people to learn to walk again.

The rationale for co-locating both the Defence facility and the NHS facility side-by-side on the same site is to facilitate sharing of expertise in ways which have never been possible or achieved before.

Under the new arrangement, specialist knowledge and skills that exist within Defence medicine because of the nature of wounding and injury in conflict can be used for the benefit of NHS patients. Expertise from NHS clinical leads and practitioners will similarly transfer in the other direction. This sharing concept is at the heart of the proposition and will result in improvement across all aspects of clinical rehabilitation.

Also fundamental to the extraordinary opportunity that the NRC represents is the potential for the consortium, already in existence, of 22 Higher Education Institutions with the Universities of Nottingham and Loughborough as the leads. This partnership, which will bring research, innovation, education and training directly alongside clinical rehabilitation, is one of the things that will make the NRC unique.

Adam Mallaby - Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (Maternity Cover)
Phone: 0115 748 5719

Notes to editors:

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