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The impact of hospital design on patients and staff

24 November 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 21

Good hospital design should not be an afterthought, a lovely and surprising bonus, or something only for new spaces that, over time through poor future planning and lack of finances, degrade to meet the poor standards of the NHS estate; it should be a basic requirement.

Every day I see staff and patients frustrated by the physical space in which health care is carried out. They are frustrated by a lack of appropriate space, bad artificial lighting and confusing signage. Clinical conversations happen in corridors because there is no space anywhere else. Patients with mobility and sensory difficulties struggle to use department entrances or find themselves lost and disoriented in a maze of similar-looking corridors.

Rather than dreaming about building beautiful new hospitals, we could manage the small everyday frustrations that add an unnecessary level of complexity to an already complex system.

The importance of well-designed healthcare environments has been recognised. Ulrich (1984) demonstrated that poorly considered environmental spaces have demonstrable negative effects on patient outcomes. Work since has made clear the harmful impact on patients and on staff (Ulrich et al, 2008; Benitez et al, 2019; Halawa et al, 2020).

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