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mental health & dementia facilities forum

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News archive - November 2014

NHS needs to ‘think outside the box’

NHS needs to ‘think outside the box’

September saw the second annual mental health and dementia facilities forum take place in Warwickshire. Here we review what turned out to be a highly-successful event for project delegates and suppliers alike.

More than 100 people gathered at The Forest of Arden Hotel in Warwickshire recently for the second annual mental health and dementia facilities forum (MHDF).

Organised by Stable Events, the forum created a productive networking environment through which delegates could focus on creating long-lasting business relationships through a series of pre-arranged meetings.

The two-day event began with a drinks reception for project delegates, who discussed the latest challenges and opportunities facing the sector. These conversations continued at the industry discussion panel the following day.

Chaired by healthcare design & management editor, Jo Makosinski, the line-up included architects Alessandro Caruso of Alessandro Caruso Architecture and Interiors, and Martha McSweeney of IBI Nightgale; Malcolm Courtney, estates quality manager for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust; and Philip Ross of Safehinge.

They provided an insight into the mental health and social care sectors, outlining the priorities for providers and suppliers moving forward.

Key to this discussion was the need for continued innovation within the sector.

A need for innovation

Courtney said: “The NHS is risk averse and this needs to change. It goes up to board level in some trusts, but we have to be more forward thinking and start thinking outside the box.

“We know there are examples of good design and innovative products out there, but it comes down to attitudes. The NHS needs to become less risk obsessed and embrace innovation.

“The difficult thing with that is that people who are risk averse like to stick to tried-and-tested methods and, if something goes wrong, estates professionals are the first people who get the finger pointed at them.

“We have got to become more savvy and mental health and dementia are a great starting point.”

Ross added: “Sometimes in this country we focus too much on things like anti-ligature points and robustness and we can forget that it is really about recovery and we need a much more holistic view of what is going on.”

But delegates were optimistic about the architecture and construction markets, despite the looming general election, which can often stifle spending.

Andrew Smith of Pozzoni Architects said: “At the moment projects are, on the whole, privately funded, so there is a lot more work in the social care sector than larger healthcare schemes. Due to a lack of capital we are seeing more refurbishment within the general healthcare marketplace, but for us it is mainly new-build projects in social care.

“We have around a dozen schemes in the pipeline currently and are confident in the market moving forward.”

And Stephen Lloyd-Loadsby, managing director of Robinson Lloyd Architecture, added: “If a trust has strong leadership, then why on earth would it wait to see who wins the election? If you need to build a new operating theatre, then you need to get on with it. As long as you have done your homework and have the money in place, why would you wait? For me, the only reason the election would cause problems and delays is where there is weak leadership in the trust.”

The panel also discussed the pros and cons of building guidance including Health Building Notes (HBNs) and Health Technical Memoranda (HTMs).

McSweeney said: “HBNs and HTMs are a starting point and from those you can develop certain ideas. However, in every project in mental health there’s always scope for innovation.”

Caruso added: “I am a great believer that the guidance is a great starting point, giving us a platform for conversation. Then you have to see how far you can take them and whether you are prepared to take risks.”

And Joe Forster, a design consultant and former mental health nurse, said: “HDMs and HTMs are not all encompassing and if we do follow them and box everything off it will stifle thinking and that will stifle innovation. It is about calculated risk-taking and for that you need to consult users.”

Improved guidance

Neil Milling, an associate at AFL Architects, has recently returned to the mental health marketplace and said the guidance had improved over the past decade.

“The guidance definitely seems to have moved on and it is less prescriptive,” he said. “You are now more able to look at innovative products, so I am finding them a bit easier to work with.”

The first day of meetings ended with a gala dinner, raising over £800 for the Young Minds child and adolescent mental health charity. The second day saw another half day of structured meetings and more networking opportunities.

Courtney said of the event: “Everything that goes into one of our buildings goes through me. The architects are responsible for specification, but I have sign off on everything. Forums like this are great as I can pick and choose the people I want to see and I am seeing things I didn’t know about.

“Often suppliers do not get to see me because of time constraints. Just my email inbox contains dozens of messages from companies touting for business. It’s great to come to somewhere like this and catch up with companies I have known for years and meet new ones I have never heard of.

“At a big trade show you can wander around and pick up goody bags, but at this forum I have seen products I will be taking back to my trust and showing to the team. It has been really worthwhile.”

Next year’s mental health and dementia facilities forum will be held on 22nd and 23rd September 2015. For more details and to book your place, email kelly@healthcaredm.co.uk.

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