People at the end of life and the bereaved to benefit from investment in hospital environments

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It was announced today that NHS hospital facilities are to be transformed for the benefit of those approaching the end of life, the bereaved and the frontline staff who care for them in a new phase of the King's Fund's Enhancing the Healing Environment programme.

The Department of Health is providing £1 million to fund new projects in 20 NHS organisations in England, with the aim of improving the physical environment for those who are dying and their relatives.

The projects will be taken forward by nurse-led, multidisciplinary teams, which will include service users. As well as a £30,000 capital allocation for the team to undertake a project to improve the patient environment, each team will receive a place on a King's Fund programme to develop their leadership skills and to give them the practical knowledge they will need to make their project a success. The projects are expected to be completed by 2009.

Speaking today at a conference to celebrate the success of the Enhancing the Healing Environment programme in Mental Health, Health Minister, Ivan Lewis MP, said: 'It is essential that we do everything in our power to ensure people who are dying and their loved ones have maximum dignity and peace.

'This programme will help to improve the physical environment in a number of hospitals and hospices providing end-of-life care. I am delighted that the King's Fund has agreed to develop this programme.'

The King's Fund chief executive, Niall Dickson, said:

'Our hospitals care better for patients who are recovering than for those who are approaching the end of life. Too often the facilities for these people and their families have been poor, and I welcome this wonderful opportunity to highlight this much neglected area and do something about it.

'This scheme has shown that it can not only improve the clinical environment, but also change the way care and support is offered to patients and their families. It can play an important part in delivering better care to some of the most vulnerable patients. Staff, family members and patients will work together to design and shape these projects – it will be their creativity that will make such a big difference to people’s experience of health care. The NHS is taking great strides to enhance the way it cares for people at the end of life and this is a key strand of Lord Darzi's Our NHS, Our Future review. But there is more we can do and the government is to be congratulated on this move.'

The Enhancing the Healing Environment programme has had a dramatic impact on patients and professionals since the King's Fund launched the programme in 2001. So far more than 130 NHS organisations including hospitals, mental health trusts, learning disability services and primary care trusts have transformed the environments in which they deliver care to patients.

Each project has to physically improve an area used by patients and must be run by a nurse-led, multidisciplinary team, which must also include service users. The programme explores practical ways in which health care environments can be improved by the use of colour, light, art and design.

An independent evaluation of the scheme conducted by researchers at South Bank University in 2003 revealed significant long-term benefits from the programme, including:

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

See more from our Enhancing the Healing Environment programme

Notes to editors

  1. Further information about the Enhancing the Healing Environment can be found on the King’s Fund’s website, including information on evaluations of the programme from 2003 and 2006.
  2. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
  3. For further information from the Department of Health, please call the Department of Health’s news desk on 020 7210 5221.
  4. 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 funding. We are a major resource to people working in health and social care, offering: leadership development programmes; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.