Artwork central to revamp of elderly care unit at Prospect Park Hospital

Berkshire ward undergoes revamp to enhance environment for patients with dementia

Art is helping to improve communication and morale at a rehabilitation unit for elderly patients, many of whom have dementia.

Artworks celebrating the history and culture of the Reading area of Berkshire have been integrated into a recent refurbishment of the 35-bed unit at Prospect Park Hospital.

The work comes off the back of a recent survey in which feedback from staff focused on the benefits of artwork for staff morale and as a catalyst for conversation and a reminiscence tool for patients. In particular, it was seen to be of help to dementia patients who like wander as it makes the corridors a more-welcoming and less-stressful environment.

The original unit was built under a PFI scheme 10 years ago, but the ward had a clinical and impersonal feel with an absence of clear wayfinding.

Arts and healthcare specialist, Willis Newson, created a scheme integrated into the interior design of the unit, which was led by Sue Hunter of Hunter Design Associates.

The design and artwork transform the unit from a purely functional environment into a more-personal space which captures the imagination of patients, staff and visitors.

Working with artist, Linda Schwab, Willis Newson led creative consultation activities with patients and staff.

She said: “For the consultation sessions, I gathered archive images of Reading and asked the participants which ones they liked or felt a connection with. I came away with a really clear direction from the group about what they were interested in, and we selected three themes for the wards - seaside, hobbies and gardens.

“To create the artwork for the doors, I used photographs from the Imperial War Museum Archive, taken in Reading around the end of the Second World War. There are some great images of people doing things which link to our chosen themes. In hospital environments, images of people aren’t often used, but I think we all like to look at pictures of people doing things. Seeing someone having a good time by the seaside could take you away somewhere in your mind to think of happier times.”

“Linda collaged found images with her own designs and photographs to create vinyl wall panoramas, which were printed by VGL graphics, and Acrovyn door panels by CS. The complex imagery appeals to the patients who spend time studying them to work out the different elements.

“For two areas with minimal natural light, Linda created stained-glass-effect light-boxes, and Sue initiated a staff photographic project which generates garden images for a changing display panel.”

Inpatient services manager at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Cathy Mills, added: “The artworks really encourage conversation. Patients and visitors instantly identify with them. They chat about places they remember, fashions they used to wear, memories that the pictures spark.

“The ward is a calmer place. When I see people in the corridors, they are enjoying themselves rather than feeling anxious and lost. Staff are calmer and happier. They are proud of where they work. It’s a pleasure to come onto the ward. And this has an impact on patients. If staff are happier, it rubs off on patients.”

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