£300m rehab centre for British war heroes to open on 358-acre estate

Stanford Hall, the bespoke successor to Headley Court which treated forces personnel for almost 70 years, is a 358-acre site kitted out with a gym, outdoor sports pitches and a pool

A world-leading rehabilitation centre is gearing up to open its doors to military patients and put the UK at the forefront of medical technology.

The £300 million Defence National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC), which has taken three years to develop, will be kitted out with the latest treatment techniques including virtual reality systems when it opens later this year.

Funding for Stanford Hall, the bespoke successor to Headley Court which treated forces personnel for almost 70 years, came from charities – such as the Rothermere Foundation – companies, private donations and £70 million from the late Duke of Westminster, who died in 2016, aged 64. 

The former country estate, near Loughborough, in Leicestershire, is being transformed into a landmark clinical facility that will treat military veterans and then extend services to members of the public who suffer complex traumatic and neurological injuries.

The hall and estate, which dates back to the 18th century, was once owned by eccentric millionaire and philanthropist Sir Julien Cahn, a furniture company boss who amassed a huge fortune by pioneering the use of hire purchase for home furnishings.

It became a 35-bedroom temple to high décor with the Royal interior designers employed to develop lavish themed rooms, an art deco theatre and rooms with 22 carat gold gilt decorations.

Cahn, who died aged 61 in 1944, would ferry guests the three miles from Loughborough station in a fleet of black Rolls Royces.

His family was left virtually penniless by death duties and the Hall was disused before the Duke of Westminster and his team spotted its strategic potential close to clinical and research institutions across the Midlands.

Construction is nearing completion and the building was officially gifted to the country in June at a ceremony attended by Prince William, Hugh Grosvenor the 7th Duke of Westminster and the Prime Minister Theresa May.

The 358-acre estate will feature gymnasia, sports fields, AstroTurf pitches and a pool complex along with its state-of-the-art medical facilities. 

The project has used 1.2 million bricks, 141,000 slate roof tiles, 3,700 gallons of paint and enough concrete to fill six Olympic size swimming pools.

The Centre will have a staff of 427 – 187 of them military – and Surgeon General, Lt Gen Martin Bricknell stated: 'The potential it offers to build on the legacy of Headley Court is unparalleled, enabling the UK to remain at the forefront of trauma rehabilitation.' 

Ian Waller, operations director of Blesma, the limbless veterans' charity, which was established at the end of WW1 and plays a key role in the rehabilitation of forces personnel, added: 'Stanford Hall will be a world-leading facility for the forces and the public. Techniques and technology for military veterans have often led to better treatment pathways for the public and the DNRC provides a focus for the current therapies and research that will take that even further.' 

The DNRC will be four times the size of Headley Court, in Surrey, with 47,000 square metres of floor space and medical units positioned for the efficient flow of patients and staff to allow enhanced clinical performance.

Its neurological ward will have the latest facilities to rehab complex trauma patients, an advanced prosthetics unit, an outpatients' unit and a 30-bed accommodation hostel for overnight visits. The lighting will be clinically controlled to improve recovery.

Wards will be equipped with advanced Computer Assisted Rehabilitation (CAREN) systems that offer a virtual reality diagnostic and therapy capabilities while a specialist gait laboratory will improve biomechanical analysis and exercise pathways.

The gardens, which once featured a pool for sea lions in the Cahn years, are being landscaped to provide sensory input to the recovery process.