We recently had the pleasure of helping Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust (NUH) to make sure that the new NIHR Nottingham Clinical Research Facility is a welcoming place that doesn’t scare children away!


Wall art to reception area


The Nottingham Clinical Research Facility (CRF) is based at Queen’s Medical Centre and is funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) and since 2022 has been developed to include a new adult and the new children’s inpatient unit.




We caught up with Louise Paine, who is the Operations Manager for the new Children’s unit, to explain how it was developed and how artwork has been a key part of making the unit welcoming for the young people who will be taking part in research there:

“The project was conceived before I actually joined.  I’d been working with NUH for 18 months.  Prior to me starting, the team just had a clinical room and an interview room in the outpatients area.  They wanted to be able to expand in order to diversify the portfolio of studies we were accredited, or able, to offer.  It was a standard clinic room, not particularly big and it had some toys but it was difficult to do a long visit in there because children don’t like being in one room for a long period of time.

The bid from NUH for national funding included the creation of dedicated inpatient facilities for children and young people, which had not existed before 2022.  The space had previously been used for research with adults.  It was quite plain, not very colourful, functional for adults but certainly not suitable as a children’s unit.  At this point I was brought on board to open it as I had previously worked in children’s clinic research facilities.


Large wall art woodland theme       Wall art woodland theme within hospital


The unit is funded by NUH’s successful bid to the NIHR which secured five years of funding starting from 2022.  The unit itself is located at the heart of the QMC building and its development was in part dependent on the development of the adult unit which was being moved and expanded to accommodate 18 inpatient beds.  This took time, because we were working as part of a much larger plan which involved the relocation of other hospital services to different parts of the QMC building.  I moved up here to a pretty empty unit in January last year and started planning what we were going to do.

The new facility brought multiple Research & Innovation department teams together.  As a result, the Children’s Clinical Research team, the Maternity Research team, the Family Health site set up team and the Managers were now all together in one big unit.   Rather than being spread out as we were before, we now have our offices all together.

This was great for everyone in the team.  We all moved in in June.  We applied to the Nottingham Hospitals Charity for a grant for various things – part of the money was to fund the artwork we commissioned from Grosvenor and for lots of various age range toys.  The Charity grant also helped pay part of the cost of a magic carpet, and for painting the unit white: it looked tired before, so it was great to be able to re-paint and refresh the area.  We also employed a full time play specialist who started a few months later.  This was an important addition to the team – whilst many people think that play specialists do nothing but play all day, that’s not true!  Their work is centred around play but they offer a lot of psychological care for children going through any kind of medical treatment.

It’s important to remember that the majority of these children are coming here voluntarily. They don’t have to take part in a research trial if they don’t want to and their parents don’t have to volunteer them to take part if they don’t want to.  So it’s particularly important to have a welcoming environment – it makes them feel safe and makes them want to come back; the children feel like they have something to do while they’re in the unit that’s appropriate for them and that not all of it is about medical intervention.

In the process of building the family health research portfolio, we increased capacity a lot – from 1 clinical room and 1 interview room, to 5 beds on the unit which can be used 24/7.  We have a couple of overnight studies coming up soon that could not be run without this facility.  We are really seeing the benefits for children both in Nottingham and nationally and hopefully we’ll continue to build the portfolio and offer even more research, which is really exciting”.



Louise explained about the Robin Hood logo which appears in the new reception area: “The Robin Hood logo was developed for the Nottingham Children’s Hospital, also based at the QMC, by Nottingham Hospitals Charity.  The Charity’s Robin Hood Appeal was an obvious choice for us to approach for funding and they are already incredibly supportive of clinical research.

We chose the woodland theme because we felt it would work for all ages.  There’s a mixture of animated images but also some more realistic photographs of animal images.  This theme was easy to expand over the unit: so far the decorated areas are corridors and all of the main Reception area.  We would like to extend artwork into the bay so we’re looking at applying for more money towards the end of the year.

The kids do love the woodland theme.  We diverted a little bit in the treatment room where the wall shows an enchanted forest mural – but all the staff really liked the image.

The treatment room is where children go for an invasive procedure (for example, they might have a canula inserted).  They come into the treatment room away from their bed space (so they don’t associate it with procedures they don’t enjoy or which they might be apprehensive about and it’s a good distraction tool due to the “Can you find?” section.


1001 things to see wall art


Initially, we were very keen for the unit to be finished before the staff moved up in June but that wasn’t possible due to delays in the refurbishment works.  Interestingly, though, as we’ve seen the changes, staff have become more invested in the project; they’ve got excited as things have been completed and toys have arrived.  We’ve learnt that things don’t have to be perfect before everyone moves in, and watching the area develop has actually increased their emotional attachment to the project.

The finished design has absolutely achieved what it set out to do.  We are all really pleased.  The unit looks bigger and brighter.  All the children really like it and have asked “Are you going to put wall art in the bays?  We certainly hope to do that when we can secure more funds.

I met Colin at Nottingham when he was here working on another project.  We got chatting and he told me his story – what he does and the reason behind doing it – I think it’s incredibly inspiring and honourable and it brought a tear to my eye.  His ethos – and that of the whole company – shows a real commitment to make the NHS environment betterit’s clear that profit is not his primary goal.    The whole team are really easy to work with and I would absolutely 100% work with them again.  This project has massively helped staff morale and been a really good experience.


Wall art roundel


When the Reception desk arrived, there was a real buzz but when I told staff that the main artwork was about to be installed … well, there was massive excitement  – they really like it!   The Reception area has gone from a place with a few chairs and a couple of tables to feeling like a proper play area and feels much more like it’s centred around the children.

Like most nurses, as long as the patients are happy, we are happy.  Seeing the children enjoy it when they come in and feel that it’s a nice space is all we need.  NUH staff have also seen the finished area and feedback has been 100% positive from everyone”.