patients association

Ahead of their involvement in our Healthcare Property & Development Conference we’ve been hearing from The Patient’s Association’s Chair Lucy Watson about the work they’re doing to improve the design and delivery of health and care services, and what learnings we can take from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q. Could you reveal some of the work the Patients Association has been doing to advocate for improvements for health and social care patients?

During lockdown we developed our new strategy and our strategic focus for 2020 – 25 is: ‘Patient partnership in design and delivery of health and care services’

Covid19 has brought the health inequalities that many communities experience into sharp focus. We know that if services continue to be designed and delivered in the way they always have, people who find it hard to access health services now will continue to do so. This applies as much to the built environment in the design of services as well as the pathway of care

Another area of work that we particularly advocate for on behalf of patients, and where we have undertaken improvement projects with the NHS, is in relation to shared decision making. This is where patients are valued by professionals as true partners in their care, both in discussions about treatment plans and in how and where their care is provided.

We have recently undertaken a review of what it is like to be a patient. This has shown that many of the ways in which the NHS looks at patient experience focus predominantly on the experience of patients receiving a health service rather than on considering the broader experience of being a patient on people’s lives. This broader approach takes account of what is important to patients and the impact on their lives which can affect their recovery and /or long-term management of their condition.

Q. How has feedback from patients been able to transform health estates development for the better?

We undertook a project to look at what mattered to patients about the primary care estate. A key message from patient feedback were concerns about patient confidentiality in relation to the design of reception areas. A further message was about the difficulty accessing many primary care facilities for disabled patients. These messages have been taken back into the design of future primary care facilities and the importance of involving and listening to patients about what matters in design.

Q. Accessibility is key within patient estates and ensuring everyone has access is core to any health estate, what are the most overlooked issues when it comes to accessibility?

Some of the most overlooked issues are accessibility throughout buildings. There has been a focus on improving entrances, but this is not always followed through into considering toilet facilities and changing facilities for patients who may need this during a visit or stay and access to consulting rooms for patients with disabilities.

Q. Well-being for patients is vital to ensuring they make a good recovery in Health facilities, what are some things that can be done to ensure well-being is maximised?

There is good evidence that shows that the environment of care has a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of patients and their recovery. Key areas that make an impact for patients are ensuring patient care areas have access to fresh air and daylight and ensuring the environment promotes privacy and dignity for patients. This means both sufficient space between beds and adequate screens and dividers for patients to have personal confidential discussions with their healthcare professional and for intimate care. It is important that there are adequate toilet and washing facilities for patients not far from their bed and without having to go past patients of the other sex.

The environment in mental health facilities and the way wards are set out can have a significant impact on the culture of care and reducing escalation of behaviours.  There are also specific requirements about signage and use of colours and way finders that can help patients with dementia find their way around and feel more secure.

Q. With the current Covid-19 crisis health capacity and the number of patients needing treatment has been significantly elevated at times, what steps have you taken to advocate for patient needs?

During the Coronavirus pandemic we have continued to listen to patients and understand their concerns. We undertook a survey to which 953 people responded. There were some strong messages that patients with non Covid19 health conditions felt abandoned during the pandemic. 47 % of people had not been able to access the services they need and 61% were of patients were more fearful and anxious in general. We have been asking for the NHS to provide clear information to patients on how they can now access services safely without fear of contracting Coronavirus. We have also been asking for patients to be given clear plans about when their treatment will restart and how long they will have to wait.

Q. How can health estates learn from the current crisis to develop for the better going into the future?

Patients want to continue to be able to access healthcare for non Covid19 conditions in the event of a second surge of Coronavirus or in the event of future pandemics. They want to know that their health will be prioritised alongside that of patients with Covid19 and that when they attend health care services, they will not be at risk of contracting Covid19. This will mean ensuring that the built environment enables separate walking routes and clinical facilities for Covid19 and non Covid19 patients. In some areas non Covid19 planned care can be provided on separate sites but this will not be the case outside of metropolitan areas.

There has already been a drive to build hospitals with more single rooms and Covid19 highlights the need for hospital emergency departments, and wards to be designed to provide flexibility for rapid isolation of patients at risk of Covid19 and other infectious diseases.

Q. What organisations in the Patients Association hoping to facilitate dialogue with at the upcoming Healthcare Property and Development event?

We are particularly interested to facilitate dialogue with NHS Estates teams to consider how to engage and work in partnership with patients to design and build services that will enable patients with differing needs to feel safe in accessing those services and how their particular needs can be met. We are also interested in talking with Property Developers to help them understand some of the issues that most concern patients about the built environment and that can support safe care for patients.

You can register for the Healthcare Property and Development Conference here: