Mental health trusts to bank over £1 million for run-down hospital environments

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Mental health hospital facilities all over England are to be transformed for the benefit of patients, relatives and front-line staff in a new phase of The King's Fund's Enhancing the Healing Environment programme, it was announced today.

There will be new projects in each of the 23 strategic health authorities outside London with the aim of improving the environment in which they deliver care to patients. The projects, which are being funded by NHS Estates and the Department of Health, will be led by nurses and will range from refurbishing corridors, waiting areas and wards to the creation of gardens, artworks and quiet spaces. They are expected to be completed by spring 2005.

Speaking today at a conference to mark the launch of the new scheme, Health Minister Lord Warner said:

'Last November I announced that we were making this creative initiative available to Trusts nationally, with funding for one scheme per Strategic Health Authority. When we asked for volunteers, we were inundated and Trusts are still asking if they can be included. Mental Health is one of our priority areas, and we and The King's Fund are both agreed that we should focus a further wave on this crucial area.

'I am delighted to have another chance to see the fruits of the labour of the schemes already being funded. We have seen the benefits that Enhancing the Healing Environment is bringing to these schemes, and I am very pleased to be announcing that more than £1million will be invested in raising the standards of the environment in mental health. I look forward to seeing the results and I believe they will be every bit as outstanding as the schemes on display at our conference today.'

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said:

'Investing in better healing environments is an important part of improving the overall health care experience for patients. There is robust evidence to show that better working environments for staff and better environments for care promote recovery and enhance the healing process. Focusing on mental health will extend the, already very apparent, benefits of the initiative to yet more trusts – and of course to many more patients.'

The scheme has had a dramatic impact on patients and professionals since it started in 2001. An evaluation of the scheme jointly commissioned by NHS Estates and The King's Fund revealed significant long-term benefits including:

  • the potential to reduce aggressive behaviour by patients and relatives towards staff
  • improvements in staff recruitment and retention rates
  • faster recuperation rates for patients
  • reductions in vandalism.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'The physical environment in which people with mental health problems receive care is often uninspiring and dull. This scheme has already had a stunning impact not only on the environment, but also on those who use services and the staff who have taken part. All the projects are locally driven - patients and staff decide how best to spend the money, whether it be used to build a garden, refurbish a waiting area in A&E or simply create a quiet space. Put simply, they have made a huge difference.'

NHS Estates chairman Bill Murray added:

'NHS Estates is delighted with the success of the Enhancing the Healing Environment Initiative and we are delighted to continue our support of The King's Fund and the excellent work it has carried out since the initiative began.'

Each project has to physically improve an area used by patients and must be run by a nurse-led, multi-disciplinary team, which must also include service users. As well as a £35,000 grant, each nurse-led team receives a place on a programme delivered 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.

National Director for Mental Health Louis Appleby said:

'We are delighted to contribute to this important initiative. A therapeutic in-patient environment is an essential part of modern health care. We have already seen how mental health schemes such as at Hillingdon PCT have benefited from The King's Fund initiative. There were even unexpected benefits, such as an increase in visitors. These schemes prove what staff and patients can achieve when they are given the opportunity.'

Newly appointed Chief Nursing Officer Chris Beasley added:

'I have been keenly involved with the Enhancing the Healing Environment initiative since its inception, when I was Regional Director of Nursing in the London region. I have seen for myself what a transformation it can bring – not only to the physical environment, but to the confidence and joint working between nurses, estates and facilities professionals, patients, users and carers. I am delighted to be taking the baton from Sarah Mullally, who I know was a very committed supporter of this programme.'

Notes to editors

1. For further information, including examples of completed projects, and interviews, please contact Beverley Cohen in The King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2632 or Michael Moruzzi on 020 7307 2585.

2. The following mental health trusts are taking part in the scheme:

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust; Beds and Luton Community NHS Trust; Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust; Buckinghamshire Mental Health NHS Trust; Cornwall Partnership Trust; County Durham & Darlington Priority Services NHS Trust; Dorset Healthcare NHS Trust; East Kent NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust; Humber Mental Health NHS Teaching Trust; Isle of Wight Healthcare NHS Trust; Lancashire Care NHS Trust; Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust; Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Trust; Manchester Mental Health & Social Care Trust; Mersey Care NHS Trust; Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust; North Essex Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust; North West Surrey Partnership NHS Trust; Sheffield Care Trust; South Staffordshire Healthcare NHS Trust; South West Yorkshire Mental Health NHS Trust; Suffolk Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust; Worcestershire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

3. Enhancing the Healing Environment: A Guide to NHS Trusts, is a publication to enable health workers to learn from the positive results of the programme, written by Sarah Waller and Hedley Finn.

4. 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.

5. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.