The first patient admitted to a brand-new surgical ward at the Royal Free Hospital (RFH) has praised the “super caring” staff who have looked after him, as well as the new facilities on the ward.

Paul McKenzie, 52, from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, is recovering in the new surgical high dependency unit (SHDU) after undergoing a gall-bladder operation on Thursday.

The £2m unit is for patients who do not need the highest level of intensive care after surgery. Those who do require closer monitoring will continue to be placed in the hospital’s intensive therapy unit (ITU).

Paul said: “I am feeling fine after the operation to remove my gall-bladder. It was originally going to be carried out as a key-hole operation but because of complications I had to be opened up. But I am feeling well now and everything is ok and it’s great to be the first patient in this brand new ward.”

He added: “Every single member of staff have been brilliant, super helpful, super professional, super caring.”

Catherine Cameron, senior clinical operations manager for theatre services, Chris Hill, senior charge nurse and Kulwant Dhadwal, clinical lead for ICU have led the SHDU development project.

Catherine said: “Because we are doing more complex surgery at the RFH, there is a greater need this type of ward.

“Every day we have four or five patients who currently go to ITU and at least half of these could be cared for in SHDU for one night before going to a ward.

“The new unit will free up beds in ITU for patients who need the highest level of care, and means we can provide care that is tailored to the needs of patients who don’t.”

With an attractive colour scheme and tree-print window coverings, the SHDU provides a calm environment for recovery. It does not care for patients who need ventilation or filtration, so it is also quieter than ITU.

Smaller lights in each bed bay mean that nursing staff can carry out patient care tasks such as emptying catheter bags at night without disturbing patients with overhead lights.

Picture caption (l-r): Staff nurse Kathy Doherty, Staff nurse Anna Hawro, patient Paul McKenzie and charge nurse Deny Chacko.