New guide from The King's Fund empowers health care staff to transform run-down hospital environments

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A new step-by-step guide for frontline health care staff to take the lead in improving run-down hospital environments has been published by The King's Fund.

Enhancing the Healing Environment: A Guide for NHS Trusts will enable health workers to learn from the positive results of The King's Fund's £2 million Enhancing the Healing Environment grants and development programme, which was launched in 2001. The programme was rolled out nationwide last November thanks to a £1m grant from NHS Estates, with additional funding from The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and The Burdett Trust for Nursing.

The guide explains how to get an improvement project started, offers guidance on consultation and evaluation and includes a directory of all 48 London projects in the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme. It looks at the importance of design, highlighting corridors, gardens, waiting spaces, artwork and clinical areas as places where good design can have a major impact. The guide is accompanied by a CD showing photographs and video projects, before and after their transformation.

Enhancing the Healing Environment programme director Sarah Waller, co-author of the guide, said:

'The programme has unlocked the potential of frontline staff and patients and has shown how local innovation can radically improve the hospital environment. I hope the guide will inspire and support others in their endeavours to create better places for healing.'

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

'Everyone reading this guide will be impressed by the results and the real differences made; it demonstrates what can be achieved by bringing together ideas, commitment, and sheer hard work.'

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 possible long-term benefits from improving hospitals settings, such as:

  • better staff morale and motivation and improved staff recruitment and retention rates 
  • faster recuperation rates for patients
  • reduction in vandalism
  • reduction of aggressive behaviour by patients and relatives towards staff
  • personal development for nurses, service users and other participants in projects
  • NHS trusts focusing more on the importance of the environment

Projects which have benefited from Enhancing the Healing Environment include Charing Cross Hospital which has extended its waiting area and now has a screen with a stained glass design, improved lighting, flooring and colour schemes. Princess Royal University Hospital selected three courtyards overlooked by in-patients to reflect the themes of earth, water and light.

The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'Because of this exciting scheme, staff and patients are transforming the environment in which care takes place - it has already made a real difference both to those who have taken part and to those who use the NHS. We hope this guide will spread the word and encourage more hospitals, health centres and surgeries to become involved.'

Read the report: Enhancing the Healing Environment: A Guide for NHS Trusts

Notes to editors

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

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. In January 2001, Enhancing the Healing Environment gave grants of £35,000 to all 32 acute hospital trusts in London to undertake an environmental improvement project in an area used by patients. The same grant was later awarded to London's 11 mental health trusts and five primary care trusts in the capital.

Acute trusts

Barking, Havering and Redbridge, Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals, Barts and the London NHS Trust, Bromley Hospitals, Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare, Ealing Hospital, Epsom and St Helier, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Chldren, Guys and St Thomas' Hospital, Hammersmith Hospitals, Hillingdon Hospital, Homerton University Hospital, King's College Hospital, Kingston Hospital, Mayday Healthcare, Moorfields Eye Hospital, Newham Healthcare, North Middlesex University Hospital, North West London, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Queen Mary's Sidcup, Royal Brompton and Harefield, Royal Free Hampstead, Royal Marsden Hospital, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, St George's Healthcare, St Mary's, University College Hospital, West Middlesex University Hospital, Whipps Cross University Hospital, Whittington Hospital.

Mental health trusts

Barnet, Enfield and Haringey; Camden and Islington; Central and North West London; East London and the City; Hillingdon Primary Care Trust; North East London; Oxleas; South London and the Maudsley; South West London and St George's; Tavistock and Portman; West London.

Primary care trusts

Haringey; Kensington and Chelsea; Lambeth; Sutton and Merton; Tower Hamlets.

5. The 23 trusts that have been selected to take part in the national extension are: Birmingham Children's 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.