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Hospices was the title of an Architects for Health Event that took place at The King’s Fund, Cavendish Square, London, on Thursday 17 May 2007.

Hospices are special buildings, not only because they are for special groups of people but also because the approach to design and the means of procurement frequently falls outside the public sector and thereby creates opportunities for new and different designs. Undoubtedly the wider health sector can learn from them.

Chair: Mr Simon Henderson from Macmillan Cancer Support.

Introduction to the Modern Hospice Movement;
Dr Nigel Sykes, Medical Director of St Christopher’s Hospice

Robin House Children’s Hospice, Balloch, GIA Design Award 2006, Winner
Sarah Murphy of Gareth Hoskins Architects

Evidence based design and impact; St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds; Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow; St Patrick’s Hospital and Mary Mount Hospice, Cork.
Ian Clarke of Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd

Enhancing the Healing Environment Programme for End of Life Care
Mura Mullan of Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd

Report on the AfH Hospices Event by Peter Scher:

Hospices are not very numerous or conspicuous and, as far as I can recall, they have not been the topic of any previous Architects for Health event. This gap was filled at a completely absorbing meeting chaired by Simon Henderson of Macmillan Cancer Support. The first excellent and authoritative presentation was given by Dr Nigel Sykes, Medical Director of St Christopher’s Hospice, with a succinct account of the development and of the present position of the hospice concept. His most striking message was that “hospice” is not a building type it is a concept of care. Palliative care as it has come to be called – formally defined, in fact, by the WHO – can be delivered at home, in a hospital or in a hospice. Some 80% of hospice beds are in the voluntary sector and all care is free, but with the NHS providing only 28% of funding.

Sarah Murphy of Gareth Hopkins Architects then presented the design of Robin House, the second children’s hospice to be opened in Scotland. It was completed in 2005 at a beautiful site to the west of Glasgow near the southern end of Loch Lomond. Showing design sketches alongside photographs of the completed building vividly demonstrated the designers’ care in understanding the users’ needs and in collaborating to realise them.

The firm of Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd has long been involved in hospice designs. St Oswald’s, Gosforth, received an RIBA Award in 1980. Ian Clarke’s presentation on Evidence based design and impact was a very thoughtful and illuminating analysis of the interaction of hospice users and the designed environment. His understanding applies, indeed, to the design of all health care facilities and derives from the clear patient-focused approach of Roger Ulrich and others. He regards “intangibles”, “soft issues” and suchlike vague excuses for arbitrary design as misnomers. Our work should be to eliminate the stress, anxiety, depression or boredom that can be brought on by the designed environment. It can be done.

Ian demonstrated this approach in the practice’s excellent designs for St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds, the Marie Curie Hospice, Glasgow and, in collaboration with Scott Tallon Walker, the Mary Mount Hospice in Cork. The latter design is a very sensitive solution to an unusually difficult brief – 130 hospice beds on a steeply sloped, north-facing site.

The final presentation, by Mura Mullan, also of Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd, was both moving and inspiring. It was for a single room at the existing Marie Curie Hospice in Glasgow. This was one of the projects of the King’s Fund “Enhancing the Healing Environment Programme”. It was a classic “before and after” demonstration of how a small amount of money and an incalculably large amount of enthusiasm and commitment by users and designers can transform the culture as well as the environment for care.

An interesting discussion followed these presentations held at the King’s Fund and some very valuable insights were gained by the appreciative members.

Peter Scher
May 2007


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