Finding a new approach to healthcare design

Results of Architects for Health round table debating future of healthcare technical guidance

Health Building Notes and Health Technical Memoranda are becoming outdated and there are calls for a series of new, modernised, documents

UK healthcare design guidance is valued the world over, but needs updating and expanding with evidence-based information and a focus on refurbishment and post-occupancy evaluation, revealed a round-table discussion of industry leaders.

Healthcare design guidance – mainly Health Building Notes and Health Technical Memoranda – are a vital part of health facility design.

But current guidance is now increasingly out of date and suffering from a lack of investment.

This leaves designers at a disadvantage and means new facilities are not being built with best practice and modern approaches as key drivers.

In recent times, and with pressure on resources, the momentum by the DH to keep the suite of documents up to date has slowed. The result is increasingly-out-of-date material, which is less relevant to modern practice

In a bid to overcome this, Architects for Health held an industry-wide round table event in Leeds late last year, attracting delegates from the NHS, private sector, and universities who, over the course of a day, explored the background, current position, and future options for guidance.

The session was chaired by Professor John Cole, former head of estates for Northern Ireland, and an important contribution was made by Jonathan Erskine, representing the European Health Property Network.

Key findings included:

  • The agreement that guidance is valuable and should be reinvigorated
  • A new approach must include stakeholders from across the industry to avoid past mistakes where documents were produced by a small cabal
  • Evidence from completed projects should be a cornerstone of guidance in the future
  • The report on the round table discussion states: “Current guidance was produced under the auspices of the Department of Health (DH) and became a substantial library of vital information to all professions involved in healthcare design and construction.

    “In recent times, and with pressure on resources, the momentum by the DH to keep the suite of documents up to date has slowed. The result is increasingly-out-of-date material, which is less relevant to modern practice.

    “Over the past couple of years, Architects for Health has become increasingly concerned about the potential for guidance to be either abandoned or, maybe, worse still, handed to a commercial agency wholesale without wide industry stakeholder support.”

    Over the past couple of years, Architects for Health has become increasingly concerned about the potential for guidance to be either abandoned or, maybe, worse still, handed to a commercial agency wholesale without wide industry stakeholder support

    In particular, at the event, post-occupancy evaluation was deemed to be vital, and something ‘very seldom’ carried out on UK health projects.

    Standardisation, Professor Cole added, would be useful if applied to components and layouts, but not to whole buildings.

    The event ended with a call for Architects for Health to conduct a survey across the industry to establish views and patterns of use for guidance, which would be used to help inform future development and direction.

    That survey is now live on the Architects for Health website and all those who use, or have used, design guidance are invited to contribute.

    Companies