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healthcare buildings forum
mental health & dementia
News archive - November 2015
mental health and dementia facilities forum review
Suppliers, architects, construction companies, representatives from NHS trusts, and other key gameplayers from the medical and social care construction sector gathered at Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire recently for the third annual mental health and dementia facilities forum (mhdf).
Organised by Stable Events, sister company to healthcare design & management (hdm) publisher, Stable Publishing, 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 one-and-a-half-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 first industry discussion panel the following morning.
Chaired by hdm editor, Jo Makosinski, the line-up on Day 1 featured Professor Mary Marshall, a professor emeritus at the University of Stirling who was director of its Dementia Services Development Centre until 2005. She is widely recognised as one of the country’s leading experts in dementia-friendly design.
She said: “There are lots of different types of dementia and we are dealing with a group of people who can’t tell us what the problem is.
“You are never going to get a total fit, but there are a lot of things you can do to make the lives of people with dementia easily and to remove some of the environmental risks.”
Her presentation was followed by insight from Dr Robert G MacDonald, a reader in architecture at Liverpool John Moores University and a mental health service user.
He said: “A mental asylum is an important word for service users like me. It’s a sanctuary where you go when you are feeling really vulnerable; sometimes by choice and sometimes not. But these environments are very special places to service users so we need to always ask ourselves ‘why are things the way they are’.
“As service providers, and architects, and product designers, we carry an amazing responsibility to the people who occupy these buildings.”
A day of one-to-one meetings then followed, culminating in a gala dinner, where more than £900 was raised in a charity raffle in aid of the mental health charity, Young Minds, and Dementia UK.
On the second day the expert speakers were Russell Vernum, building and design manager for independent mental health provider, St Andrew’s Healthcare; and Liz Fuggle, a senior architect and associate at BPA Architecture with a special interest in dementia-friendly design.
Fuggle said: “There are a lot of nice environments out there, but they are not ticking the dementia-friendly boxes.”
Part of the problem, she told the audience, was that architects and operators were designing to attract the carers and children of potential residents, rather than meeting the needs of the residents themselves.
“Dementia design does not have to be like playschool,” she said. “Good environments are not overtly different to what we already doing. It’s about taking colour and contrast, acoustics, and lighting and making an environment that is instantly recognisable.
“Good dementia design is good design for everybody.”
Her comments were supported by Vernum. He said: “There seems to be some design laziness as we use more and more technology in the environment. I think a sustainable environment is one that is fully lit and airy and then, and only then, should we use technology to do the things we can’t achieve naturally.”
As well as expert opinion, and the one-to-one meetings, there was also an exhibition of the latest products and services, and opportunities for networking among the delegates.
Marwa Al-Memar, development manager for project delegate, Octopus Healthcare, said: “We attended the forum to meet as many companies as possible that are working on products and new ideas for mental health, dementia and supported living environments. We also wanted to listen to the experts to find out what we can do to make our buildings more efficient and user friendly.
“We spoke to a couple of companies that we hadn’t heard of before and between us we are thinking of new ways to deliver our facilities.”
Graham Blackman from mental health provider, Kent and Medway Partnership Trust, added: “I’ve come away with lots of ideas, some from people that I first I did not think would be relevant to us.”
And his colleague, Elaine MacGregor, said: “There is a lot of problem solving going on throughout the event and it’s these conversations that will help us to create better environments in the future.”
Next year’s mental health and dementia facilities forum will be held on 22nd & 23rd September 2016. For more details and to book your place, email firstname.lastname@example.org.