Showing support for health service design networks

The recent article on design in the healthcare industry highlighted an important and neglected area of design practice (News Analysis, DW 25 April).

A mention of the many designers, communication managers and writers already employed by the National Health Service all over the UK, in addition to the ‘top down’ initiatives focussed on in your article, may have provided a more balanced view.

The Designers in Health Network comprises around 250 designers working in and for the NHS. It is a mutual support group that aims to raise the profile of design as an integral part of the NHS. To inform members of current initiatives and new thinking, they organise an annual study day. This year’s event was held on 12 April at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The study day theme was Information Design: communicating health messages effectively. Presentations from specialists in their field were on accessibility in Web design; an overview of recent information design research; effective wayfinding and how to help ‘non-designers’ in the NHS create clearer documents.

It proved a valuable day for all those who attended. Details can be found at events. DIH members have to cope with inadequate budgets, often with antiquated facilities and overstretched workloads every day (sound familiar?), to interpret complex briefs to help patients and staff at a local level.

A similar ‘grass roots’ organisation, SSIN, exists for designers working in the social services. Designers who have chosen to work exclusively in the public sector should be recognised and appreciated for the contribution they already make to provide all of us with a better healthcare and social services experience.

Eric Gristwood

Course leader – BA graphic design

Faculty of Art & Design

Manchester Metropolitan University

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