FTSE 250-listed real estate investment trust, Assura, has launched a ‘toolkit’ to help GP practices improve their buildings, and the physical environment for people with disabilities and conditions such as dementia, neurodiversity. and anxiety.
Assura says the ‘Designing for Everyone’ kit – which brings together best practice on design aspects including colour, lighting, acoustics, fixtures and fittings, wayfinding, artwork, and use of space – gives primary care sites the chance to assess their environments, and ‘find small, low-cost actions to make them better for everyone’.
It explained: “The tools can be used by practice managers, premises teams, and patient groups, to better understand how the design and layout of their health centre building works for people with a range of needs. It’s believed to be the first integrated resource of its kind to focus specifically on design principles to support people living with dementia, neurodiversity, and conditions like anxiety.”
Commissioned by Assura, the toolkit was written by the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester. It draws on research into best practice design for people living with dementia, neurodiversity, and conditions like anxiety, and earlier studies with Assura by the national charities, Dimensions and the Patients Association. It will form part of Dimensions’ suite of training resources for general practice in its #MyGPAndMe campaign, and will also be rolled out by Assura in its approach to designing new primary care buildings and delivering extension and improvement works to existing sites.
Assura explained: “The toolkit allows primary care teams to assess their buildings and patient environment on core design features, such as lighting, and use of colour, which apply to all aspects of a health centre building, and on specific design features for particular areas, such as the need for adjustable lighting levels in consulting rooms. It also offers guidance on additional design issues to consider during a pandemic.
The launch follows Dimensions’ 2019-20 research with disabled people on their experiences of primary care buildings, which found that only 22 per cent of respondents felt independent in health centre environments, under half felt that toilet facilities met their needs, and almost half felt ‘worried’ in such environments. Key factors impacted on how people felt included décor, lighting, noise levels, and waiting room layout. The research also highlights some of the challenges raised in the government’s National Disability Strategy, which noted ‘visiting the GP surgery’ as a key issue for people living with disabilities.
Assura CEO, Jonathan Murphy, said: “Given everything we have all seen about the role of primary care in community health through the pandemic, and its position front and centre of the NHS Long Term Plan, the places where we access face-to-face primary care must work for everyone. We cannot simply shrug our shoulders at the fact that the design of many older primary care buildings can be particularly difficult for people with disabilities, dementia, and neurodiverse conditions – and can even impact on whether people who are most in need of local health services access them at all. Levelling up access to healthcare and reducing the impact of health inequalities is at the heart of the NHS’ vision, so creating healthcare facilities which are designed to serve everyone who uses them is fundamental for those patient experiences.”
To download the ‘Designing for Everyone’ guide, summary assessment tool, and full assessment tool, visit: http://www.dimensions-uk.org/designingforeveryone