Sep 19, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Transformation by collaborative healthcare design

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"I confirm I have seen the future of healthcare in the UK" announced The Rt Hon Norman Lamb, MP at the official opening of The Whittington Health Trust Ambulatory Care Centre, London.


Commenting about the design of the new Centre that was developed using a collaborative approach to design involving staff, patients and clinicians, Mr Lamb was impressed with the calm environment. “This new centre is a fantastic experience for the patients by fusing together the skills in the community with this exceptional centre of excellence. I have seen a wide range of patients on my visit, with various healthcare needs and conditions who are all getting the right support and treatment in a wonderful setting.”

Whittington Health, realised the design process was a central part to understanding and creating a space to find new ways of delivering care that improved the experience for the patients, staff and bring departments closer together.

Following a successful partnership with the Design Council using collaborative design to improve the outpatients’ pharmacy department, the hospital commissioned Studio TILT to assume the same codesign approach for the Ambulatory Care Centre and deliver an innovative scheme. Architects Levitt Bernstein then took this scheme forward to deliver the space. The result is an innovative centre for emergency care designed around the patients’ needs, staff requirements and smooth departmental flow – equipped with the latest facilities within a distinctly calm environment.

The design stage

Design and architecture practice Studio TILT used its people-centred approach to explore and test what was really required for the space, by involving patients and staff in the design process. At the heart of the new centre’s effectiveness, was a series of design objectives to create a functional, yet ground breaking department including an enhanced patient experience, intuitive and clinically directed layout, clear signage and branding with increased health promotion and improved staff experience.

In order to fully understand the patient experience, how the centre needed to operate and the staff requirements for these objectives, Studio TILT ran workshops with more than 70 people across the Trust. These included managers, clinicians, administrators, infection prevention and control staff and patients. This gave everyone using the space a voice in the design process.

From the codesign workshop results and creation of full-scale mock-ups, the space was developed for elements such as the treatment rooms, sluices, scanners, ultrasound and phlebotomy alongside support and outreach resources for teleconferencing, seminars and integrated community services spaces. A communal area was formed from the central space, ensuring seamless movement between treatments, helping to reduce waiting times while creating a tranquil setting.

Oliver Marlow, Design Director, Studio TILT comments: “Transforming public services has to begin with people. Using a collaborative approach to design ensures the purpose of the space is understood from all perspectives and enables the culture of the space to form the design. Putting people at the heart of design has proven to enhance patient and staff satisfaction, transform processes and training, improve risk management and make dramatic efficiency savings.”

Challenging the traditional healthcare environment, the new design improves the patient experience in many ways including direct access to natural light and natural ventilation within as many areas as possible. A simple switch of corridor and treatment rooms, for example, means that it is the rooms that receive the natural light and ventilation rather than the corridor. These factors improve both the staff experience and productivity, but more importantly the wellbeing of patients.

Clarissa Murdoch, Lead Consultant at Ambulatory Care adds: “This was an ambitious project. We wanted the needs of the patients to come first. Incorporating workshops at the beginning of the process, the needs of patients and staff were understood and addressed in the design. The collaborative effort has produced a beautiful yet functional space where the patient experience is excellent, there is lots of interaction and the clinicians can function efficiently.”

Realising the scheme and delivery

With concepts, an exhaustive prototyping process and a robust scheme in place, architecture practice Levitt Bernstein took over the schemes, to realise this innovative project ensuring technical standards required in a hospital environment were met.

The dynamic space had to allow for a huge range of different departments with a wide spectrum of treatments for children and adults. Key to the design was the idea that this should be a new kind of space; a chance to create a world-class unit that didn’t feel like a hospital.

Based on original ideas to have calming, large scale graphics, Levitt Bernstein commissioned London illustrator Alex Green to produce a series of murals which both transformed and enhanced clinical areas, creating a more social, cafe style environment and incorporating clear, colour-coded way-finding systems. This represented a radical departure from conventional hospital waiting and treatment areas.

A Whittington Health patient comments: “It’s very comfortable and relaxing. I can chill out while I’m waiting. It’s fresh looking, bright and cheerful. The staff are very nice too. They couldn’t do enough to help and were very quick to see to everything.”

Integrating infection control and prevention along with other operational measures into the design was an important element of the developing scheme. The practice included integrated design solutions, which offered the required technical performance to ensure all material elements met both the design vision and procedural requirements. Special attention was also paid to integrating high-quality security measures into the hospital’s existing system to provide unobtrusive but specialised provision for CCTV, access control and a panic alarm for the new unit.

Levitt Bernstein’s designs are inherently sustainable and are built with an appreciation that a building’s carbon footprint must be addressed in its design, construction and eventual use.

To this end, the opportunity was taken to address issues such as water and energy efficiency, improve the building’s insulation and providing a more sustainable lighting system. The plan was developed to allow more natural light to penetrate the depth of the space, again stepping away from institutional aesthetic conventions and simultaneously removing a need for extra artificial light sources.

Most importantly, the new Whittington Ambulatory Care Centre provides a place of accessibility and warmth for patients and clinicians to provide providing both same day emergency and urgent review care for the community in a safe and relaxing environment.

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