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News archive - July 2018

Mental health design comes under the spotlight

Mental health design comes under the spotlight

The need for improved stakeholder engagement, and a greater emphasis on learning from past experiences, were just two of the take-home messages from the 2018 Design in Mental Health Annual Conference.

Running alongside an exhibition showcasing innovative mental health products and services; the two-day event threw the spotlight on key topics influencing the current and future design of psychiatric facilities across the UK and further afield.

The conference kicked off with an update from the Design in Mental Health Network (DIMHN), which is working with BRE to draw up a new set of standards against which future mental health building products can be tested and certified (see page 18).

Then Cath Lake, a DIMHN board member and mental health lead for P + HS Architects, talked about the very-real need for improvements in stakeholder engagement throughout the design process for mental health facilities.

She said: “As an architect I am passionate about creating good buildings, but we can’t do that unless everyone who uses them is involved in the design process.

“Lack of engagement leads to decisions not being accepted by those not involved in the process.”

A meeting of minds

Lake is now carrying out research exploring the best ways to undertake stakeholder engagement.

“We will be looking at what these sessions should look like,” she said.

“Should they be group sessions, or one to one meetings? How often should they be held? And at what stages in the design process?

“Over the next couple of months we hope to come up with the answers.”

The conference also heard from Rosemary Jenssen, a practising architect, director of Architects for Health, and lead on the ProCure22 (P22) Efficiency and Productivity Programme Post Occupancy Evaluation Working Group.

She called for improvements in the evaluation of new and existing mental health buildings to ensure they perform as expected.

She said: “It’s about delivering the very-best environments and the very-best outcomes for service users and staff; not just a year after a building has opened, but after two or three years, and beyond.”

The P22 working group is producing guidance on the subject and pre- and post-occupancy evaluation exercises will be carried out on all new P22 projects moving forward, creating a database of best-practice case studies.

A number of P22 schemes have been used to pilot this new approach, including Atherleigh Park, a mental health unit in Wigan, delivered by Kier.

Post-occupancy evaluation was carried out after the unit had been open for six months and revealed that all of the original business case benefits - social, environmental and financial - had been realised.

Learning a lesson

The evaluations are carried out using a toolkit developed by P22 and at Atherleigh Park this generated feedback from 120 service users and staff.

Initial findings show the building has led to shorter lengths of stay, reduced incidents of violence and aggression, increased patient and staff satisfaction, and significant energy savings.

“There are lessons to be learnt from existing facilities,” said Jenssen.

“The key is collaboration.”

Learning from past mistakes, and adopting best-practice design approaches, was also a key element of a speech by Simon Corben on the first day of the conference.

As director and head of profession at the NHS Estates and Facilities Efficiency and Product Division; he described mental health as ‘playing a massive part’ in the wider health and wellbeing system, with the estate central to this.

Over recent years he revealed that productivity within the NHS estate was up, variation in costs had been reduced, and the ‘model hospital’ scheme was providing a benchmark for estates and facilities managers.

“When Lord Carter did his review he saw disparity between trusts,” he told the conference.

“We are seeing that variation being reduced and are having interesting debates about how we can improve the quality of care in mental health.”

But, again, collaboration would be vital moving forward, he said, and his department has recently launched a portal which is accessible to all NHS staff.

“Some of us keep our good ideas to ourselves,” he added.

“This is a good way to share those.

“We are useless at shouting from the rooftops about the brilliant job we are doing, but we need to do this.

“The portal will provide a single place for everyone to see how other trusts are doing.

“We have got to think differently and we have to do that by sharing good and sound ideas across the country.

“We need a motivated workforce and we need to get louder and cleverer in how we manage the estate.”

Standardisation was also lauded as crucial to the future of the NHS estate, as well as the creation of new government-driven technical guidance, and ringfenced funding.

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