Frontline staff get chance to transform drab and dilapidated hospital environments

Hospital teams in England are to get the chance to transform the environment in which they deliver care for the benefit of patients, relatives and staff as part of a £1million scheme funded by NHS Estates and run by The King's Fund.

The announcement, made today at an event attended by HRH The Prince of Wales, President of The King's Fund, follows the success of The King's Fund's Enhancing the Healing Environment programme in London. Now the programme has been extended nationwide. The 23 strategic health authorities outside the capital have nominated one acute, mental health or primary care trust to undertake a renovation project. The schemes, which are expected to be completed in late 2004/early 2005, will range from refurbishing corridors, waiting areas and wards to the creation of gardens, artworks and quiet spaces.

Each participating trust will now identify a nurse-led, multi-disciplinary team (which must include service users) to be responsible for planning and managing their Enhancing the Healing Environment project. Each team will receive a grant of £35,000 and a place on a programme run by The King's Fund to develop their leadership skills and give them the practical knowledge they will need to make their project a success. The programme explores practical ways in which health care environments can be improved by the use of colour, light, art and design, and includes a session at Tate Modern.

Speaking today at the launch of the national programme at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital NHS Trust in London, Enhancing the Healing Environment programme director Sarah Waller said:

'We hope to raise awareness and understanding among NHS staff about how to bring about practical, value-for-money environmental improvements in hospitals. The projects already carried out in London have been universally welcomed by patients and staff. They clearly demonstrate the capacity and capability of frontline staff to be stunningly creative in improving the environment in which they deliver care.'

Jane Riley, Director of Policy and Development at NHS Estates, said:

'We are delighted to be working with The King's Fund on the extension of Enhancing the Healing Environment, to provide selected trusts with the opportunity to benefit from this successful programme. This initiative will continue our Improving the Patient Experience programme of work, and will encourage awareness of the very real impact that improvements to the environment can have for both patients and staff.'

Evaluations of the impact of health care environments on patients and staff, including one on the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme jointly commissioned by NHS Estates and The King's Fund, have revealed a number of significant long-term benefits from improving hospital settings, such as:

  • the potential to reduce aggressive behaviour by patients and relatives towards staff
  • improving staff recruitment and retention rates
  • helping patients to recuperate faster.

The King's Fund chief executive, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, added:

'The physical environment in which many people receive care is uninspiring and sometimes downright depressing, so we are delighted that our Enhancing the Healing Environment scheme is being extended outside London, and its value recognised so widely.'

At St Thomas' Hospital, a £35,000 grant from The King's Fund for a dermatology ward, during the first phase of the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme, has acted as a springboard for a major £500,000 refurbishment project thanks to investment from Guy's and St Thomas' Charitable Foundation. It will enable Robert Willan ward to have additional and improved bathroom facilities, a day room and quiet room for patients and a generally enhanced environment for patients and staff.

Find out more about the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme

Notes to editors: 

1. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. Its £2million Enhancing the Healing Environment programme has been running since 2001. The 32 acute trusts in London were first to take part and this has been followed by the capital's 11 mental health trusts (from May 2002) and five primary care trusts (from July 2003). Additional funding for the national roll out has been provided by The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and The Burdett Trust for Nursing.

2. NHS Estates is an executive agency of the Department of Health, responsible for the development and implementation of policies across estates and facilities management. Among its major programmes is Improving the Patient Experience, which is aimed at delivering a better environment for patients, staff and visitors. The national extension of Enhancing the Healing Environment, which is being taken forward jointly by NHS Estates and the Chief Nursing Officer in support of work to improve the patient experience, forms a major strand of this programme.

3. The 23 trusts that have been selected to take part in the national extension are: Birmingham Childrens Hospital NHS Trust, East Somerset NHS Trust, Gloucestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Ipswich Primary Care Trust, Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, Maldon and South Chelmsford Primary Care Trust, Mid Yorkshire NHS Trust, North Cumbria Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Trust, Oxfordshire Mental Health Care NHS Trust, Plymouth Primary Care Trust, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospitals NHS Trust, Rotherham Primary Care Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, South Manchester University Hospital Trust, South Tyneside Healthcare NHS Trust, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, St Helens and Knowsley Hospitals NHS Trust, Tees and North East Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, West Sussex Health and Social Care NHS Trust, York Hospitals NHS Trust.

4. Media coverage of this event will be by Royal Rota. Any media wishing to attend should apply through the relevant news organisation. For further details please contact The Prince of Wales's press office on 020 7024 5832.

5. For further information, including examples of completed projects, and interviews, please contact Daniel Reynolds in the King's Fund public affairs office on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927.