Plan to open empty Debenhams store in Yorkshire as a 'high street hospital' wins award

A plan to reopen Debenhams in Sheffield city centre as a hospital has won a prize for ‘brilliant thinking’.

The five-storey building on The Moor would make a great ‘high street hospital,’ according to project management company Arup, who submitted the proposal to the prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize.

It argued a Debenhams hospital would have good transport links, promote healthy lifestyles, support shops and save carbon emissions by re-using existing buildings. It would also free up space in the city’s existing hospitals.

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The entry landed one of two ‘Light Bulb’ awards for ‘particularly innovative’ thinking.

A 'Debenhams hospital' would have good transport links, promote healthy lifestyles, support shops and save carbon emissions by re-using existing buildings. It would also free up space in the city’s existing hospitals.

This year’s prize was on the future of the hospital. Some 98 were received from 15 countries.

Debenhams on The Moor closed in May and stands isolated amid new developments, while Sheffield’s shrinking retail sector is increasingly focused on the area - prompting growing questions about the building’s future.

Derek Roberts, leader of Arup’s Sheffield office, who co-authored The High Street Hospital Model with input from public sector organisations across the city, said: “Our concept is to repurpose vacant major retail stores in cities and towns as outpatient and diagnostic hubs – using Sheffield and its former Debenhams store as a test case.

“Our vision puts healthcare at the heart of cities, to improve patient outcomes and revitalise urban centres as they recover from losing major retailers.”

The five-storey building on The Moor would make a great ‘high street hospital,’ according to project management company Arup who submitted the proposal to the prestigious Wolfson Economics Prize.

Entries to the Prize – second only to the Nobel Prize in monetary terms – will help inform what the Government has called the ‘biggest hospital building programme in a generation’, worth £3.7 billion.

It comes at a time of soaring NHS waiting lists and when 92 per cent of trusts reported concerns about staff wellbeing following the pandemic.

The contest was set up by Lord Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next, and this year’s judging panel is chaired by Lord Ajay Kakkar, professor of surgery and chair of the King’s Fund.

As well as two Light Bulb awards, the panel has selected five finalists, who are guaranteed £10,000 and must now develop a fuller proposal, and three ‘Highly Commended’ entries.

Lord Kakkar said: “The entries to this year’s Wolfson Economics Prize have been remarkably impressive. They represent examples of brilliant thinking, the world over, about how better to serve patients and support staff in hospitals."