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Old hospital wards affect patient recovery

Old, shabby NHS hospital wards are not only perceived as threatening environments, but can actually hamper patient recovery and could be more costly, research has found.

The study found that patients recuperating from surgery on an old hospital ward were more stressed, needed more drugs and had slower recovery times than those who were recuperating on a newly-refurbished ward.

Resolving the issue would not only mean that patients would be healthier, happy and more satisfied but more money would be available to plough back into patient care.

The findings of the research by Dr Angeli Santos and Dr Phil Leather from the Institute of Work, Health and Organisations at The University of Nottingham, in collaboration with Naysan Firoozmand from The Morrisby Organisation, are due to be presented at the European Academy of Occupational Health Psychology in Dublin today (Thursday November 9).

The study evaluated two post-operative recovery rooms used by in-patients following cardio-thoracic surgery. The effects of two different environments were examined: a new ward and an old ward. The rooms were used for an identical function, but differed in spatial layout, illumination and colour. The newly refurbished room was designed specifically as a therapeutic environment, where improvements were made to layout and choice of colour.

Participants in the study were asked to rate their environment by means of 23 environmental criteria, which identified positive and negative aspects of their environment.

Psychophysiological measures in response to the environment were recorded, including blood pressure and pulse rate for up to 13 days.

The levels of stress experienced by participants revealed that participants experienced significantly more stress in the old ward than the new. On the newer ward, post operative drug consumption records of DF 118 and Temazepam were reduced. Participants on the old ward received 307.5 units of DF1 18, compared to 147.4 units on the new ward and the patients on the new ward received just 6.7 units of Tamazepam, compared to 41 units on the old ward.

The duration of the post-operative stay for participants on the old ward was 10.3 days, whereas participants on the new ward remained for 8.1 days.

The mean blood pressure of participants on the new ward was, at 91.98, significantly lower than those on the old ward, who had a mean blood pressure of 96.48.

With Government NHS funding stretched to the limit, ward design is not high on the list of priorities for UK hospitals. However, in the US, where private funding is the norm, hospital design is at the forefront of patient recovery. In a hospital setting, a therapeutic environment can be described as one that is supportive of patients’ needs, which portrays a nurturing and non-threatening image and puts the patient at ease. The therapeutic value of hospital design is widely-recognised — the more ‘therapeutic’ the environment, the quicker the post-op recovery and a return to health, both physically and psychologically.

Dr Santos said: “The results demonstrate that a therapeutic environment in a UK hospital has the capability to both speed patient recovery and cut costs.”

Emma Thorne | alfa
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