Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part I)


Tenovus Cancer Care Mobile Chemotherapy Unit: Thinking Outside the Box, Inside the Box (Part I). Blog by Olivia Laxton, Austin-Smith:Lord

When the opportunity arose to design the interior of Tenovus Cancer Care’s new mobile support unit (THE LARGEST MOBILE CHEMOTHERAPY UNIT IN THE WORLD!), we were both intrigued and excited. Although we had no prior experience of designing spaces that move about on wheels, our experience in Healthcare interiors and our passion for promoting wellbeing through design made us feel that we were capable of taking on this challenge. We were able to think about the project with no preconceptions and to challenge the industry norms to produce a design that was completely new, pioneering and completely fit for purpose.

Existing Mobile Treatment Unit 2

The first stage of the project was to carry out stakeholder engagement meetings with the Tenovus Cancer Care senior management team, nurses, logistics and other staff members, and most importantly, the patients and visitors to the unit. We devised a generic set of questions we asked everyone with the aim of obtaining a focused set of outcomes, as well as job and operational specific questions to consolidate the brief. The most profound experience was speaking with the patients and relatives. They are so grateful for the service Tenovus Cancer Care provides and are amazed by the existing mobile support units as they currently are. During the consultation process we gathered statements including these from the patients and relatives:

 “Everyone and everything has been wonderful for my journey through treatments”

“Much nicer than going to hospital”

“From a relative’s point of view my impression is that everyone is so kind and cheerful. If I were unfortunate enough to again have to use such a unit I would have no fear. There always seems to be hope.”

“Brilliant, very welcoming; Friendly social atmosphere”

“Coming on the bus is a boost to my recovery as it means I am out of risk”


Through the consultation period, we spoke directly with over 20 stakeholders, as well as receiving numerous responses to questionnaires completed by visiting patients and relatives on board the existing units. The face to face consultations were carried out in offices, conference rooms, and on board both of the existing units, mirroring the movement and the operation of the units themselves. We also spent time observing the operation on board both of the current units to understand the way they are used and how staff and patients interact during their time on board.

At the conclusion of the consultation process it was clear that the majority of visitors felt the existing units were amazing as they are and the task of designing something better seemed quite daunting. The consultation process also delivered some responses that went completely against our expectations. For instance, it is a well-known fact that an excessive amount of white can create an overly clinical and uncomfortable atmosphere, but when asked about colour choices, a lot of patients liked white as to them it translated to cleanliness which made them feel more comfortable.

This project drew upon Austin-Smith:Lord’s ability to facilitate and lead effective stakeholder consultations and develop comprehensive design briefs. All of the design detail intent drawings have now been issued to the coach builders and the new mobile chemotherapy unit will be commissioned in July 2018.