Evidence is mounting that good hospital design is hugely important to patients and NHS staff alike

David Lawrence

The Francis Report and the transformative work being spearheaded by Sir Bruce Keogh have recently highlighted the important part that adequate staffing plays in providing a safe and effective therapeutic healthcare environment. Privacy and dignity; views, nature and outdoors; legibility of place; comfort and control of the environment; appearance; facilities; and staff all contribute to patient’s experience.

A CABE survey reported that, when asked to comment about hospital design, the public prioritise as follows:

32% - space;

22% - light;

16% - need for fresh air;

16% - cleanliness;

12% - warm, friendly atmosphere;

11% - colour;

10% - gardens and outdoor space;

9% - privacy;

5% - use of technology;

5% - concerns about noise levels.

Of course, staff also benefit equally from enhancements to the patient experience. Hospital design embracing healthcare data, research and learning from leading healthcare employers such as Barchester Health can bring together good spatial use, technology, innovative interiors, and deliver operational benefits.  With regards to the role of hospital design in the recruitment, retention and performance of NHS nurses in England, CABE surveyed 500 nurses throughout English hospitals to determine nurses’ attitudes towards hospital design. You might not be surprised to hear that:

·        22% of nurses surveyed stated that hospital buildings, setting and interiors were very significant in their job selection decision

·        48% of nurses surveyed agreed strongly that working in a well-designed hospital would help them do their job better

·        41% of nurses surveyed disagreed strongly that the design of a hospital makes no difference to staff morale

·        56% of nurses surveyed strongly agreed that working in a poorly designed hospital contributes to increased stress levels.

It is also important to factor into NHS transformation and improvement that the quality of highly specialist care in the acute setting can be very sensitive to the environment in which the clinical teams deliver.  Some teams and their patient groups can experience high levels of stress which can be positively or adversely amplified by the environment too.

So if you agree that the quality of the patient environment and healthcare staff morale, recruitment and retention rates matter, it follows that healthcare estate design matters.  A lot. The quality of the built environment experience matters. In my next blog, I will write about specific elements of healthcare facilities that can make all the difference. 

David Lawrence is head of Capita’s health property team