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The impact of interior design on patient well-being

There is growing recognition of the impact that ward design can have on a patient’s well-being and recovery. Matt Clutton of Static Systems Group (SSG) and Colin Horn of Grosvenor Interiors share their views on this subject and highlight the outcome of recent collaboration between the two companies.

Matt Clutton is Product Manager at Static Systems Group:

“Ward design has always been an important consideration for SSG, but historically our focus has been on the equipment – nurse call and bedhead trunking – rather than on actual design of the ward space itself. It was when we came to develop our Design and Innovation Centre in 2015 and then our Concept Ward a couple of years later that we really started to engage and explore in more depth the benefits of incorporating interior design elements into the ward.

“At that time, working alongside other partner suppliers we introduced interior design features into the ward, such as wall artwork, privacy screens and soft furnishings.

“Then, some 18 months ago, we began development of a new bedhead services trunking solution – Vistr Headwall®. A design requirement for Vistr was that bedhead services, nurse call, electrical sockets and lighting should be incorporated into the side of the unit so they can easily be accessed but are discretely out of sight of patients and visitors. This both enhances the aesthetics of the product and improves the patient environment.

“Around the same time, we were approached by Colin Horn of Grosvenor Interiors, healthcare design specialists. Colin was keen to explore possible collaboration and was already familiar with SSG as we had previously worked on the same projects, but separately with Grosvenor coming in after we had installed our bedhead trunking which meant their interior designers had to work around our products.

“Our initial focus with Colin was the design and supply of the graphic panel for Vistr Headwall. The unit features a decorative graphic fascia that truly enhances a patient’s surroundings by incorporating light and colour. There is ultimate flexibility over the images that can be applied to the unit so, whilst there are standard images that can be offered from stock, bespoke images can be used to suit a particular environment.

“However, we really wanted to make our behead units blend in as an integral part of the ward design, rather than a piece of medical equipment. So, in discussion with Colin and his team, we came up with proposals to refresh our Concept Ward which we have now re-branded the Innovation Ward. Grosvenor took a look at the ward from a whole room perspective. They incorporated a range of visuals that depict nature and the outdoors, which are proven to have a calming effect. They then added in items of bespoke furniture, making the whole room environment more akin to something you would expect to find in a boutique hotel rather than a hospital ward. By engaging with a healthcare interior design specialist, the ward now provides an integrated and therapeutic healthcare environment that is conducive to patient well-being.

“Collaboration between an equipment provider and healthcare interior design specialist could be considered rather peculiar but has in fact proven very beneficial as we are both specialists in our respective fields. It was also a natural progression of our ongoing engagement and consultation with industry professionals – constructors, architects, consultants and clinicians – who have all helped to shape not just our Innovation Ward, but also our healthcare solutions. By working together with Colin and his team at Grosvenor Interiors we have been able to bring synergy to the design and enhancement of the patient room, resulting in manifold benefits for patients and clinical staff.”

Colin Horn is Managing Director of Grosvenor Interiors:

“There are a number of design factors that can positively impact the ward environment and, consequently, the patient experience in hospital. When approaching a new project, we consider the space, take a detailed brief from the client and then try to design a space that will give the best experience to the user. Starting out with a blank canvas, we consider the average age of patients, the reason for their stay in hospital, the available space, lighting and access. An important question we ask staff is how they want users of the room to feel.

“We are passionate about how the interior environment can affect people psychologically and we use colour, imaging, lighting, and overall ambiance in an effort to improve the patient experience. No-one wants to be stuck in a hospital, so our aim is to make the experience the best it can be by improving the way patients feel in the space. We want them to be able to relax, to feel safe and to feel that they have everything they need close at hand. It’s about enabling patients to focus on other things rather than just the reason they are in there.

“There will be some environments where we aim to create ‘forgettable’ spaces, such as rooms where patients are near death or where stillborn babies will be delivered. In these environments, the room’s appearance needs to be respectful and calming, but shouldn’t leave a negative memory imprint in the people who have lost a loved one. Normally though, our aim is to create spaces that people will talk about.

“We are seeing an increase in the number of hospitals where architects have been able to introduce colour, lighting and flooring that significantly enhances the look and feel of the hospital. Much of Grosvenor Interior’s work is focused on supporting charities that use funds to make environmental improvements to NHS hospitals. Certain colours are known to have a beneficial effect on certain patient groups. For example, we avoid bright alerting colours such as red in spaces that are likely to be used by children or adults with autism as this can set off their alert response and add to their stress while in the space. Instead, we use a combination of colours known to reduce stress and calm. If the users are calm, then the job of nursing them is made so much easier.

“With the NHS facing budget cuts left, right and centre, interior design can often be put on the back burner, particularly as it’s still a relatively new thing for the NHS to recognise that the space you are treated in is important. It’s also very difficult to quantify a return on investment on enhancing spaces in hospitals. However, the vast majority of feedback is positive and recognises that, whilst quality clinical care has to be the top priority, being in a ‘good space’ has value and helps the patient feel well looked after in a professional setting.”

“SSG has developed a really effective solution to an age-old problem with its Vistr Headwall product. Bedhead trunking is singularly one of the most challenging elements of the ward to address in terms of aesthetics. It’s an essential component of every ward and, understandably, the focus of attention from a clinical perspective, but from a design perspective, we would prefer it if it would blend in with the rest of the space. Historically, despite the best efforts of manufacturers, it has remained a challenge to create a more aesthetically pleasing design but now SSG has come up with an ideal solution. Vistr Headwall contains all the essential clinical equipment but allows architects to effectively make the headwall disappear into the rest of the space, opening up many opportunities for us as specialist designers.”