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Leeds General Infirmary


Report B(9705) Commissioned by NHS Estates

A Comparative Study of the Impact of Environmental Design upon Hospital Patients and Staff

Dr Phil Leather, Diane Beale & Laura Lee

Institute of Work, Health & Organisations, University of Nottingham

February 2000

This report details the results of a systematic research programme investigating the role of the physical design of the hospital in patient and staff well-being. The findings presented support the view that psychologically supportive designs do indeed facilitate patient health and recovery.

Psychologically supportive designs are those which convey a positive image, e.g. are seen as friendly and welcoming rather than strange and intimidating, and which thereby help to generate positive mood states, e.g. pleasant relaxation. In this study, the benefits found to accrue from such designs included reduced levels of self-reported stress, increased levels of positive environmental stimulation, increased mental capacity to process novel information, shorter post-operative stay, reduced post-operative drug consumption and possible physiological change. In short, the physical design of the hospital environment is shown to have an obvious and substantial health premium attached to it.

The Report details the development of a measure to assess the image or impression communicated by a typical hospital environment, the out-patient clinic. It then reports a series of comparative studies undertaken at the United Leeds Teaching Hospital (ULTH) NHS Trust which utilised this measure and sought to test the veracity of the claim that a more "pleasing" and "reassuring" physical environment can promote patient well-being and recovery. These studies capitalised upon the redevelopment programme underway at ULTH which encompassed a deliberate attempt to move away from the sterile, clinical and institutional imagery of many traditional hospital settings. Thus, art, craftwork and other interior design features, e.g. a greater use of colour and natural light, were incorporated in the search for a more attractive and therapeutic environment for hospital users. The redevelopment programme therefore offered a unique opportunity to empirically explore the relationship between design and well-being by comparison of "old" (pre-redevelopment) and "new" (post-redevelopment) environments.

Three different locations were used: - a cardiac out-patients waiting area, a coronary angiography daycase unit, and a cardiology and cardiothoracic ward - as a means of exploring the generalisability of any positive effects found to be associated with a "pleasant" and "reassuring" environment.

While the redevelopment programme showed no similar positive effects for staff well-being, this is almost certainly due to the confounding effects of the changes in the social organisation of work brought about by the redevelopment programme, e.g. new work patterns and the creation of new work teams.

Further information concerning this Report can be obtained from:

Dr Phil Leather

Tel: +44 (0)115 84 66638

E-mail: [email protected]

Diane Beale

Tel: +44 (0)115 84 66644

E-mail: [email protected]

Institute of Work, Health and Organisations, University of Nottingham Business School, Jubilee Campus, Wollaton Road, Nottingham, NG8 1BB, United Kingdom.