Publish date: 02 March 2022

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales unvealing the Plaque

His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales officially opened the University College Hospital Grafton Way Building today.

The Prince of Wales was greeted by UCLH chair Baroness Julia Neuberger, chief executive David Probert, medical director for surgery and cancer, Geoff Bellingan, deputy chief nurse Sarah Burton and Camden Mayor Sabrina Francis.

Staff lined the entrance on his arrival at the new building which was decorated with balloons and bunting for the occasion. Situated on the corner of Grafton Way and Huntley Street, the new building is just across from the main University College Hospital building opened by The Queen in 2005 and the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson wing opened by Princess Anne in 2008.

The new Grafton Way Building is a 13-storey structure with a basement which could house the whole of the Royal Albert Hall. The floors below ground are home to an immense proton beam therapy centre, one of only two such NHS centres in the UK. Above ground is one of the largest centres for the treatment of blood disorders in Europe. In between is a full imaging service, and a hyper-modern surgery service with eight theatres, a 36-bed recovery area, a 32-bed surgical ward and 10 critical care beds.

On entering the building, His Royal Highness was shown the spacious atrium by assistant arts curator Laura Bradshaw who explained how the presence of art in hospital buildings contributes to a better experience for staff and patients and helps to improve patient recovery rates and wellbeing.

The Prince of Wales, a patron of Macmillan Cancer Support, also visited the Macmillan Living Room, a therapeutic centre providing a quiet contemplative space to help patients feel they are not alone. This is particularly vital for patients, families and carers who are away from home.

He then visited the Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) treatment floor and met consultant oncologist Dr Yen Ching Chang before viewing the specialist equipment. The PBT centre at UCLH is set across three basement floors to accommodate the incredible equipment needed to generate protons. A cyclotron generates the protons spinning ionised hydrogen at two-thirds the speed of light. This beam is guided via massive magnets to one of the four treatment rooms, where a gantry delivers the treatment to the patient with millimetre accuracy.

He also met Louise Dawson, 12, who is having proton beam therapy treatment at the centre, accompanied by her mum Karen.

The proton beam therapy treatment course takes around six weeks, with people staying in nearby accommodation and visiting the centre as outpatients each day. A third of the patients are children and the Teenage Cancer Trust and Fight for Life have helped fund waiting areas for children and young people which help the surroundings feel less clinical.

After meeting staff and supporters of the hospital, His Royal Highness unveiled a plaque and said: “I was enormously touched to be invited to open this project, which I know has been a long time in the planning. But if I may say so, it is a remarkable achievement and for what it is worth, I offer my congratulations to those who played such an important part, including all those genius physicists who actually understand how proton beam therapy works. It is truly remarkable.

“I understand how much pressure you have been under for the last two years and quite how you have withstood it, I do not know. It is a great tribute to your professionalism and resilience to make this possible. And for all of us who relied upon you, depended on you and your skills, we cannot ever thank you enough. Many congratulations and thank you for all that you do.”

Baroness Neuberger said: “After many years in the planning, and more in the construction, it is a real honour to be able to host His Royal Highness.

“Everything about this new hospital has been designed with patients in mind.

“From the light filled wards, art on every floor, and the garden, with medicinal plants and a quiet place to reflect and refresh, we hope the experience for patients is as stress free as possible.

“Alongside the environment, is the technology and equipment – some of the very best in the world, including one of only two NHS PBT centres in the UK.”

Chief executive David Probert thanked His Royal Highness for visiting and said: “I am delighted that His Royal Highness could be here to personally thank our staff for their hard work in seeing through this project and managing to open it during the pandemic.

“I am extremely proud of everyone involved in this work and really pleased that patients are able to benefit from the myriad of care and research opportunities offered at our new treatment facility.”