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Designed for Life: the key to new hospitals in Wales.

Byline: By Seb Morton-Clark Western Mail

Impersonal, depressing, dehumanising - for some patients the experience of hospital is more like staying in a car park than a place of rehabilitation.

But more hospitable hospitals could now be built in Wales with the launch of a new initiative which will put well designed healthcare buildings at the forefront.

A new partnership between the Design Commission for Wales (DCfW) and the Welsh Health Estates (WHE) plans to provide a comprehensive support programme for specially trained 'Design Champions' working on Wales' 22 Local Health Boards.

The initiative comes at a time when design issues have been made a priority within the UK healthcare sector after research has revealed how design quality directly affects patient and staff retention.

The Prince of Wales has been at the forefront of the campaign for better designed hospitals which will 'nurture the soul and the spirit' of patients.

Kieran Morgan, a specialist in healthcare sector design who has been appointed by the DCfW to head the Design Review Panel, also believes good design is fundamental to top patient care.

'A good healthcare environment should be designed from the inside out, taking full account of patient needs and experiences and the requirements of staff with regard to efficient communication and good relationships between key departments,' he said.

'Thoughtful, good quality design does not need to be expensive - even the smallest design decision, such as the use of light or colour can make a big difference, particularly in a healthcare setting where people are at their most anxious and vulnerable.

'Everyone deserves good design.'

The new initiative will see the DCfW and WHE providing training packages to design

champions - local health board staff with an interest in design who will oversee the building of new healthcare facilities.

There will be a series of regional workshops as well as one-on-one training sessions for the design champions to attend.

Nigel Davies, WHE's assistant director, said, 'Patients have been getting a bit of a raw deal in terms of environment.

'We want to create a quality environment and provide buildings that the public will be proud of.'

Carole-Ann Davies, chief executive of the DCfW, added, 'We're looking at longer term, higher value - not just for the next 10 to 15 years but the next 100 to 150 years.

'We have to make sure that Wales doesn't lose out - that it has delivered the best healthcare buildings possible.'

A similar scheme, set up by Prince Charles in England in 2001, will influence the design of 64 new hospitals built with the aid of pounds 7.5bn of private finance initiative money over the next decade.

Peter Jenkins, of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), said the Welsh programme was promising.

'It's exciting stuff,' he said. 'Many of the lessons that have been learnt [in England] can be translated across different healthcare buildings, from big hospitals to small surgeries.

'The NHS is often talked of in terms of clinical priorities but it is important that there is now more focus on architectural influences.'

The research carried out by CABE found space, natural light and fresh air were regarded as the most essential design aspects of new hospitals. The findings will be used for the new designs in Wales with both patients and staff at individual sites being consulted to create comfortable and efficient healthcare units. Blueprints for hospitals to serve the 21st Century communities of Wales: Design will play a key role in the Welsh hospital building programme, with eight new developments planned for the coming years.

Most of the new hospitals will be community facilities, including a replacement for Tenby cottage hospital.

But the jewel in the crown is the proposed new hospital for Caerphilly to replace the historic Caerphilly District Miner's Hospital.

The pounds 100m development will be the first major change to hospital services in Wales following the publication of the Wanless report last year which said that reform is vital to sustain NHS services.

The new hospital - plans have yet to be drawn up - will not be built on the current hospital site in Caerphilly but will be relocated more centrally in the borough to serve both the north and south population.

New hospitals will also be built at Merthyr Tydfil, in the Cynon Valley, in Ebbw Vale, the Rhondda, Porthmadog and Holywell.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 13, 2004
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