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Director Paul Hutt on Designing Healthcare Facilities

Director Paul Hutt on Designing Healthcare Facilities

GNA are making significant progress in the healthcare industry by leveraging our years of expertise and specialised skills. Our Healthcare Lead Director, Paul Hutt, gave some time to share with us his valuable insights about the sector and the influence of architecture in healthcare settings.

External Architectural Image of Royal Orthopaedic Hospital at dusk

The healthcare industry plays a vital role in driving economic growth, creating jobs, and promoting innovation. At GNA, we are dedicated to making a positive impact in placemaking. With over 30 years of experience delivering high-quality buildings across various sectors, including healthcare and social care. In this interview, Paul shares some of his thoughts on the complexities and opportunities involved in designing healthcare facilities.

Why is healthcare an important sector for GNA to engage with?

Paul tells us about the opportunities that healthcare projects provide; not only to the patients and their families, but also to the wider community. He emphasises the power of architecture on an individual’s life and how this can add value and have a significant impact on their health.

"Here at Glancy Nicholls, we’re passionate about making positive change, be that in the emotive feelings created by the built environment and the spaces in which we live and work, or in the physical impact of architecture and the effect that can have on people’s health.”

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How do you approach designing a healthcare facility with consideration for patient privacy and security?

Paul highlights throughout the conversation how vital patient safety and privacy are. After taking us through his 8-step approach for designing such a facility, he states that:

“We work incredibly hard to create projects that are safe, welcoming, and respectful of patients' privacy and dignity. Visiting a clinical environment is, for the vast majority, stressful. But there are simple aspects to consider in designing for patient dignity and security that can also help reduce anxiety.”

He states that an often-overlooked feature in designing healthcare facilities is good wayfinding. Designing the layout of the building to be intuitive reduces the amount of signage needed and also reduces stress and anxiety for patients and families as they make their way around the building. He notes that this is something GNA prioritises, as it is these smaller details that make the experience of being within a healthcare facility, that little bit easier.

Paul also speaks about features that can help create a healing environment and promote a sense of wellbeing such as providing adequate lighting, using sound-absorbing materials, choosing warm and welcoming colours and textures, comfortable and durable furniture, and incorporating art and natural elements such as plants and water features to public/communal areas.

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How has the pandemic changed the approach to a healthcare project now?

“What the pandemic has done, is highlight the need for better collaboration and communication between healthcare providers, public health officials, government agencies and us as designers. Even more than ever, greater coordination and communication among stakeholders and designers is required to ensure we get the best possible outcomes.

I think it is also important that projects now incorporate mental health considerations into their planning and delivery, such as designing spaces that promote mental wellbeing alongside improving access to mental health services.”

Paul also speaks about the need to give greater scrutiny to measures that limit the spread of infections, including increased ventilation, better and more accessible PPE, physical barriers, and touchless technologies.

Overall, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of flexibility and adaptability in healthcare especially, as well as the need to prioritise safety and the need for social distancing and improving infection control. A significant shift towards telehealth services, has required healthcare project teams to develop and implement digital solutions to improve remote access to care.

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How do GNA support clients in delivering better healthcare environments?

Paul asserts that due to our extensive experience in healthcare and dementia care, GNA can use their expertise and knowledge to advise and collaborate with the client using our “lessons learnt” to deliver well-considered, successful spaces.

Whilst we don’t advocate replicating past projects as a solution, our clients often require better support in their needs assessments, greater collaboration & engagement with stakeholders, such as patients, staff, and visitors, and a critical appraisal of their anticipated outcomes.

Supporting our clients requires a collaborative and evidence-based approach that prioritises the needs of stakeholders and promotes healing, safety, and wellbeing.

“Our knowledge and experience across sectors has allowed us to bring added value to many of our clients. We are a leading designer in dementia environments, and 2 years ago, we were asked to contribute to the ‘All Party Parliamentary Group’ investigation into Housing and Care for Older People, the report actually found 20 overarching issues and made more than 40 recommendations to providing better environments for those living with dementia.”
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How do GNA stay current with advances in healthcare technology and necessary compliance regulations and incorporate them into designs?

Paul expressed the importance of attending conferences and sector focused events to stay abreast of the latest advancements as well as to network and gather intelligence. Similarly, Paul notes that subscriptions to relevant journals and memberships to institutes like IHEEM can be greatly beneficial in keeping up to date with methods, standards, and technological opportunities.

“Advancements in technology have certainly driven changes in space requirements, environmental conditions & adjacencies. Within healthcare, it is imperative that we remain compliant with requirements such as HTMs & HBNs which are essential to delivering high-quality healthcare services. We have subscriptions to a number of cloud-based platforms to ensure that we remain compliant but also are kept aware of future updates ahead of implementation.”

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What was your favourite healthcare project to be involved in and why?

Although a difficult decision, Paul reflected on his personal favourite - The Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, near Oswestry.

“What began as a simple space planning exercise for the old nurses’ home, grew into a series of projects including the creation of a ten-year estate strategy which in turn, was important to the trust in gaining foundation status”.

The hospital is steeped in history and to play some small part in the continuing evolution of such a renowned and acknowledged leader in its field, was quite humbling, Paul told us. Opened in 1920, as the Shropshire Orthopaedic Hospital, by a visionary nurse and an eminent orthopaedic surgeon, it pioneered concepts that have become commonplace today.

“The hospital had grown organically over the past century, and this had resulted in a rather confused layout with dispersed departments and challenges to patient dignity. We set out a comprehensive estate strategy which began with a rationalisation of the external parking arrangement and the creation of a main entrance to improve legibility, accessibility, wayfinding and produce an efficient patient pathway.”

Other projects at the hospital included the remodelling and refurbishment of the out patient department, changes to the hydrotherapy suite, a ward refurbishment, the creation of an office and training facility, the refurbishment of bone dextometry and the design for four new theatres with associated HDU, recovery and discharge/admissions unit as well as a replacement of the existing tumour ward with accompanying physiotherapy department.

Internal Architectural Visuals of Cafeteria and patients

Robert Jones & Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital

At GNA, we support our clients in delivering better healthcare environments by providing collaborative, evidence-based advice that prioritises the needs of patients, staff, and visitors. We help our clients with needs assessments, greater collaboration and engagement with stakeholders, and a critical appraisal of their anticipated outcomes. Our goal is to design healthcare facilities that not only enhance patient safety, privacy, and comfort but also contribute to economic growth, job creation, innovation, and long-term sustainability of healthcare delivery.