Publish date: 19 November 2021

State-of-the-art sterilisation facility officially opened


An £8 million state-of-the-art healthcare sterilisation facility in Northumberland has been officially opened today (Friday, November 19).

The Northumbria Sterile Processing Centre, which is in the grounds of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington and has been disinfecting and sterilising medical equipment since the summer, was opened by Blyth Valley MP, Ian Levy.

The sterile processing centre replaces two Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust sterilisation departments located at Wansbeck and North Tyneside hospitals, both of which were built more than 30 years ago.

Ian Levy MP was given a tour around the centre and shown the various processes that can disinfect and sterilise half-a-million pieces of medical equipment a year, which is an additional 200,000 than could be processed before.

Each piece of equipment takes up to four-and-a-half hours to go through the process.

Ian Levy, MP for Blyth Valley, said: “I was absolutely delighted to officially open this new facility in Cramlington. It is yet another example of the forward thinking of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

“What I particularly like about this project is that the construction was led by Cramlington-based Merit. As with the trust’s PPE manufacturing facility in Seaton Delaval, this has provided jobs for local people.”

The two-storey bespoke and carbon-neutral facility is just one of Northumbria Healthcare’s projects which aligns with the trust’s recently launched Community Promise. The promise is based on six key pillars which relate to wider factors that fuel health inequality – poverty, employment, education, economy, environment and wellbeing.

Cramlington-based Merit constructed the facility and the project not only supports the local economy but is also critical in the provision of high-quality patient care and wellbeing.

Janet Pearson, Northumbria Healthcare’s decontamination manager, who helped to oversee the construction of the sterile processing centre, said: “I am so proud of this facility and the role that it plays in providing high-quality patient care. Although this service is behind the scenes, it is critical to improving the health and wellbeing of tens of thousands of patients every year and in building patient confidence. Our clinicians rely on having the equipment they need to provide this care to our patients. The equipment that we disinfect and sterilise is used in a large and varied number of departments including theatres, A&E, maternity and podiatry, to name just a few. I would like to recognise and thank everyone who has been involved in this project.

“The centre demonstrates the trust’s commitment to not only providing excellent care, but also to innovation and supporting the regional healthcare system. As other health organisations may also be looking at medical equipment sterilisation solutions and alternatives, our sterile processing facility will have enough capacity to provide this service.”

90% of the Northumbria Sterile Processing Centre was constructed offsite, which reduced disruption, time and cost. The centre is part of the trust’s ongoing programme to reduce carbon emissions and is powered by green electricity. As the cycles to clean and sterilise equipment are faster than previous ones, it means that the new facility is more efficient in terms of producing much less carbon and reduced use of water and electricity.

Tony Wells, Merit’s CEO, said: “Merit worked collaboratively with both the trust and Dysart to deliver an innovative solution that could meet the fast track, affordability and sustainability requirements of this project.

“We based the design on our FLEXI POD® offsite manufactured platform, which we adapted to suit this specific project. This solution provides a host of benefits in terms of factory manufacturing, methane-free/zero-carbon emissions that eliminate natural gas from the building and reduces plant room space, maximising usable space for the trust team.

“A large proportion of the facility was manufactured offsite at the Merit factory locally in Cramlington, which is home to our successful apprenticeship programme, then transported five miles to the hospital for installation.

“It has been refreshing to work with a trust that recognises the benefits of modern methods of construction and which clearly embraces innovation as a key driver for improving productivity and skills in the region.”

Medical equipment arrives at the facility, is disassembled and checked to ensure all equipment is fully exposed and can be cleaned while going through the different cycles. Items are disinfected in washers and then packed to go through the sterilisation process. Each pack is then distributed to hospitals. Quality checks are in place throughout the process.

Mike Clark, development director, Dysart Developments Limited, said: “As a North East development company we are pleased to have been able to help deliver such an important facility on behalf of Northumbria Healthcare, while working with Merit to complete the build. Dysart Developments hopes to continue to work with the trust to further enhance patient care and services.”