Imagine Healthier By Design – innovation in patient safety

Enjoyed the seminar on better hospital design as part of London Design Festival last night. Speakers included Colum Lowe of the National Patient Safety Agency, Professor Roger Coleman of the RCA, author of Design For Patient Safety, and surgeon Henry Marsh who had some great pics of the worst offenders. Wow, there are some shockingly bad looking hospitals out there, especially when you consider the evidence says good design in the most general sense helps patient recovery times. See event spec below to give a better flavour than me of what’s it was all about:

“Design has an enormous impact on our everyday experiences. You may not have thought about it before because good design should be seamless, but if something is poorly designed, then we certainly notice.

“This is especially the case in the healthcare environment. For example, you’d expect hospital equipment to be designed to minimise human error, but in many cases the design can be confusing and result in potentially serious errors. Strangely, the end users, ie medical staff, are never involved in the design and testing of the equipment, which may explain why some of the problems arise.

“The design of the overall hospital space is important too. Feeling relaxed and comfortable in our surroundings plays a large part in our recovery from an operation or illness. Yet hospitals are often large soulless spaces where patients are often left confused and feeling a sense of indignity. Not really a good environment to recover in. There are design solutions to most of these issues, for example single occupancy rooms to reduce the stress caused by other patients on a ward, but they are often not employed, the reasons behind this decision being based on a misconception. For example, in the case of single rooms, that the costs are higher, more staff are needed, and patients are at a greater risk because they can’t be constantly observed.”

As a footnote (with a feature in the Health Service Journal publishing the day after which was critical of the failings of the National Patient Safety Agency) apparently there is real evidence due to appear on the impact of design on safety. The study was carried out by the Robens Centre for Health Ergonomics on behalf of Almus Pharmaceuticals. The paper will be published in due course.

In the same edition of the HSJ was a piece on the previous week’s survey of the top 50 NHS figures, suggesting Professor Richard Parish was one notable omission. Nice to hear the former head of the Health Development Agency back in the driving seat, at the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health.