Healthy hospitals will pay dividends in the long run

I lead one of the design groups participating in Cabe’s ‘Healthy Hospitals’ Campaign launched on 24 November (DW 27 November).

I lead one of the design groups participating in Cabe’s ‘Healthy Hospitals’ Campaign launched on 24 November (DW 27 November).

In the same issue of Design Week were also articles about Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association, and the DBA’s 2003 Design Effectiveness Awards. Winner in the Industrial Section is the Electa Synergy – a new cancer-busting linear accelerator for use in radiotherapy. Hothouse Product Development Partners was briefed to ‘redesign the appearance of the machine… to be as sympathetic as possible for the patient’. Outcome? Orders doubled, manufacturing costs came down, access for maintenance and upgrades was improved and, most importantly, I imagine, there was less stress for radiotherapy patients. It sounds like those holding the purse strings see the advantages of buying into this piece of equipment and are voting both with their feet and their cheque books.

I woke up on Healthy Hospitals launch day to the sound of Cabe commissioner Sunand Prasad being interviewed by James Naughtie on Radio 4’s Today. Naughtie, playing devil’s advocate, went quickly for the jugular question – cost. Just like the Electa Synergy, the real answer is significant cost reduction because of improved all-round performance. Except here we are ultimately talking about massive savings for the National Health Service as a whole, and a far better quality of experience for patients. All the research from both the UK and abroad is pointing towards better designed health care environments, reducing requirements for drugs and shortening stays, and making them better places to work for staff. All that saves big, big bucks.

Sure, to the person holding the purse strings, tooling-up is not free, but with 100 new hospitals involved before 2010, each with at least a 30-year life (and maybe much longer), it is simply business madness to ignore this issue at such a critical point in time. So, with the NHS capital programme in full swing and with the DBA’s mission ‘to bring design to business and business to design’, I can’t think of a better opportunity, or, indeed, a bigger waste if those opportunities are allowed to slide past. After all, it’s what ‘synergy’ means, let’s start the ball rolling.

Ian Clarke


Jane Darbyshire and David Kendall Chartered Architects and Landscape Architects

Newcastle upon Tyne NE5 3AL

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