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Alder Hey made safe

Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool opened its doors in 2015. Designing Out Crime Officers from Merseyside Police worked with the hospital, and its architects and developers, to make the building safe and secure.

The hospital authorities were focused on providing a building that was relaxed, friendly, open and welcoming. This approach, entirely appropriate for a children’s hospital, could be a challenge to a secure building. An example of how these two requirements came together was in the meandering approach to the hospital’s front entrance.

It was agreed that strategically placed featured art, planters and trees would help to create a pleasant environment for patients, parents, visitors and staff. But these were also measures that would help prevent the hospital from becoming a ‘soft target’ from what police call hostile vehicle mitigation – vehicles deliberately being driven off-road at buildings or pedestrians, for crime or terrorism.

As well as building in security to the layout and landscaping, Merseyside Police also worked to ensure the physical security of the hospital’s buildings with CCTV, lighting to increase visibility, access control systems, and robust doors, windows and locks that would make it difficult for casual or opportunistic criminals to gain easy access.

In the three years since the £237m hospital, officially called Alder Hey in the Park, opened, there have been a total of 187 recorded offences – or just over one a week on average, according to figures released by Merseyside Police. Most of these offences are sneak thefts at the retail outlets inside the hospital and other thefts, such as mobile phones being taken from handbags. Other offences include assaults on staff and pedal cycle thefts.

Sgt Frank Stott of Merseyside Police, said that whilst the main focus of the build team was to provide the best possible patient care and for people visiting and working in the hospital, this presented unique challenges for the police.

“This was a new building so could effectively be designed from the outset. We were able to identify and introduce measures and techniques to provide a safe and low crime environment. We were really pleased that there was a willingness to engage with us about crime prevention and listen to our advice to help make their building safer. The crime figures are amazingly low in comparison to similar buildings. It shows what can be achieved when organisations are prepared to come together at the right time to work for the common good.”

Secured by Design, the national police crime prevention initiative, has a SBD trained police officers and staff attached to police forces and councils around the UK. Known as Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs), they work with architects, developers and local authority planners and the pre-planning and planning stages to construction, to design out crime.

Alder Hey opened with 270 beds, including 48 critical care beds for patients in intensive care, high dependency and burns units. There are 16 operating theatres, four for day-case surgery and 12 inpatient theatres. It cares for more than 275,000 children, young people and their families a year. The hospital is part of a complex that includes a new research, innovation and education centre.

About Secured by Design

Secured by Design (SBD) is a Police Crime Prevention Initiative (CPI). Among the most famous buildings, which incorporate SBD crime prevention measures and techniques are the 2012 London Olympics site, the 2014 Commonwealth Games Village, Wembley Stadium, the National Stadium of Wales and the Scottish and Welsh Assembly Buildings. SBD is celebrating its 30th anniversary year in 2019. Visit


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