Starfish hospital design puts St Albans woman on prize shortlist

Deirdre and Edmund King with their Wolfson Prize shortlist award in 2017.

Deirdre and Edmund King with their Wolfson Prize shortlist award in 2017. - Credit: Wolfson Prize

A St Albans economist has become the first person to be shortlisted for a prestigious international award twice.

Deirdre King, of Jennings Road, is one of five people in the running for this year’s £250,000 Wolfson Prize – the second biggest economics prize in the world – which aims to find innovations to improve hospitals for patients and staff.

First class airline-style pods in A&E departments, gardens between wards and starfish-shaped hubs are among the innovative proposals which could help inform the design of new hospitals.

Deirdre's entry proposes starfish-shaped hospital hubs, which would divide up five core hospital activities - A&E, diagnostics, operating theatres, ICU and laboratories - into each “ray” of the five-ray starfish.

It was designed with her brother-in-law, David Leonard of Leonard Design Architects.

She said: “Our big idea is a Starfish hospital, designed for life, with modern hubs, connected rays, and satellites. This will empower staff to provide optimal clinical services in a calm and welcoming environment, enhance hospital experiences for all, and offer a vision to build a healthier population.

“My motivation and inspiration for developing starfish comes from my heartfelt gratitude to the NHS for saving my life just over 25 years ago when I was one of the first patients to receive pioneering stem-cell treatment for advanced Hodgkins Disease, and from my hospital experiences as a patient.”

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The starfish hospitals would also incorporate modern designs including plant-life and welcoming surroundings to make entering hospitals feel “like a five-star hotel”.

Deirdre's 2017 entry was devised with her husband and AA president, Edmund King OBE, and focused on how we should pay for future roads.

Lord Kakkar, chair of the judging panel, said: “Out of an exceptionally strong field, the shortlisted entries demonstrate particularly ingenious approaches. With a renewed focus on hospital building in the UK, these finalists have a really exciting opportunity to shape how NHS hospitals look, feel and function.”

Health secretary Sajid Javid said the entries would “help inform” what the Government has called the “biggest hospital building programme in a generation”, worth £3.7 billion.

“This year’s Wolfson shortlist is packed full of innovative ideas to help inform these plans and I wish all the finalists the best of luck.”