NHS Gets Behind a Fun New Design Trend




Despite the best efforts of paediatric staff, hospitals can be scary places for young patients. We came across this fantastic article on RIBA Journal, outlining the great design work happening to make British hospitals more kid-friendly.

From bright colours, to lush green gardens, and impressive play areas lit with natural light. Newly built children’s healthcare facilities are often the polar opposite of their clinical and sterile predecessors. The NHS is making a conscious effort to make hospitals patient-focused, going so far as to involve children in the design and decision making process to make it happen.

Fifteen-year-old Eleanor Brogan’s drawing directly inspired the final design of Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Health Park, opened last October 2015. Its turfed roof and gardens are visible from the majority of the single bedrooms, which also come complete with privacy-saving en-suites and pull-out beds for parents.

As ever, the main aim was to raise the morale of the young patients, to aid their recovery in hospital. While stays are never pleasant, the 90m-long ‘heart space’, or hub, of cafes, performance areas and play spaces at Alder Hey Children’s Health Park make it more bearable, and hopefully less scary.

Supposedly, the best way to make a hospital welcoming and unintimidating, is to make it look as little like a hospital as possible. Distracting the child from the worries and stresses of being in hospital, is perhaps the best way to keep them upbeat.


We can expect more hospitals to follow Sheffield Children’s Hospital’s example. Thanks to a £40 million investment, they’ve crafted an iconic play tower with plenty of hand-painted wall illustrations and spotted laminate flooring throughout their new wards, and facilities too.

Cleverly designed play areas not only allow children to be their social and fun loving selves, letting off as much steam as they’re able to, but parents can rest assured that their little one is more relaxed than in a traditional, adult-centric medical environment.

When undertaking children’s healthcare fit-outs, we must also consider the needs of the child’s family. From accommodation, such as pull-out or sofa beds, in the same room as their little-ones, to bigger waiting rooms able to accommodate everyone from parents and grandparents, to siblings. It’s about reducing, and ultimately removing, stress during a difficult time.

It’s something that South Glasgow University Hospital’s 256-bed Royal Hospital for Sick Children gave plenty of thought to.

It seems that a number of major new NHS paediatric hospitals and expansions are finally following the pioneering example set at Evelina London Children’s Hospital by Hopkin’s Architects 10 years ago. It’s perhaps Britain’s best child and teen-focussed health-care facility.

A few of their stand-out design elements include a spiral slide down into their ocean themed reception area and natural-light enabling glass panelling throughout.

Here at Ultimate we’ve collaborated with the NHS previously. Going forward, we’re incredibly keen to help youngsters feel like themselves in a comfortable, welcoming and inspiring medical environment, while they focus on the important part of making a full recovery with their parents.

Images copyright Gareth Gardner, via RIBA Journal

Posted June 21, 2016

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