Architects Can Make Hospitals Happier - If They Are Used Wisely; the Design of Hospitals Can Do Much to Promote Healing in Sick Patients. but Leading Architect Christopher Jones Argues That Wales Has Yet to Fully Embrace This Concept

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Byline: Christopher Jones

THE current strategy to move away from healthcare delivered in super hospitals to more compact community-based and patient-centred care is sound.

But a far more fundamental shift in the NHS would be a move towards architecture that responds to the human spirit to promote healing.

The quality of architectural design in the health sector has a direct correlation with the stress levels of both patients and staff.

As an architect, it amazes me we are still being encouraged to produce "potato stamp" architecture when the potential for healing should inspire the very best in design innovation.

For some reason, there seems to be a collective failure of will to produce wonderful buildings within the health arena and the effect on our health is the price.

At the end of 2007, a new sense of optimism emerged in health sector design.

The design and construction of new NHS architecture was to be carried out in partnership with NHS trusts, working on programmes to put quality and innovation back into the design process.

The Design Commission for Wales would bring back to the health sector sorely-needed architectural criticism and a mandatory peer review process that would examine the design of every new NHS scheme produced in Wales.

Within NHS trusts design champions were appointed to oversee the development of schemes with a particular focus on design quality, from the development of the early brief through to project completion.

The mundane, utilitarian, failing architecture of traditional healthcare design was at last being questioned.

The new air of thought and research present in the healthcare environment was observed in a quote from the then ministerial design champion, Lord Hunt, who said: "Design is much more than what a building looks like, it is about how it functions, how it makes people feel."

His words touched on the core of what evidence-based design is all about and were a recognition of the role architecture can play in the healing process.

The environments architects create for patients and families may not be able to cure them, but they can heal people.

To be a healthcare architect, I have to be concerned with human health in the widest sense.

Plato regarded health as the balance of the body, mind, soul and nature, and that's good enough for me.

Good architecture complements this approach.

Evidence-based design is the deliberate attempt to base healthcare building design decisions on the best available evidence concerned with improving the healing process.

We should be striving to create safer environments that help patients recover, and help staff perform better, by reducing stress and fatigue and by increasing effectiveness. …