- Internal Staircase -
Brighton and Hove Health and Wellbeing Centre is situated in a Victorian building on Western Road, a busy shopping street near Hove. It is one of the first NHS practices in the UK to combine modern medicine, complementary therapies, and the healing arts. The centre has been engaged with ideas about the impact its building has on patients for several years, with many thoughtful changes being made to enhance the patient experience. Patient areas are full of colour, and natural light. A calm atmosphere is achieved through thematic interior design. A small reception desk occupies the immediate entrance area with a waiting room to its side; consultation rooms are located on the floors above. The flat above the practice was acquired and re-configured in order to create access from the upstairs waiting room into the stairwell and upper space. The basement of the building accommodates the shared medical records and an office space; this is adjoined by a very small staff meeting room and kitchen area.
Much of the focus in this building is already on patient wellbeing; feedback and observations indicate that the improvements made are largely effective. By contrast, the main staff area accommodates administrative staff, doctors and trainees, with medical records taking up about a third of their space. This main space enjoys very limited natural light. The artificially lit, small kitchen also functions as a meeting space and is highly dependent on the cooperation of its users. Both these staff areas are extremely cramped and afford very little privacy. Generally they are overlooked and provide poor conditions and spaces for staff to work, meet and relax. Developments in ‘Skype’ consultations with patients will soon put further demands on both these spaces. Upstairs, the redundant and disused stairwell from the former entrance to the flat presents a unique opportunity for the surgery to re-configure their spaces.
Tori Shepherd prioritised staff wellbeing by linking two opposing spaces. Her decision to move the medical records into a rarely used staircase in the clinic extends the main staff area by about a third of its current dimensions. The impact of this plan is to allow decisions to be made by staff about the best use of the space for both the efficiency of their work and their own wellbeing. The removal of the medical records allows natural light from the pavement skylight to flood into the room. This small and simple adaption immediately improves the aesthetics of the room, providing a lighter and less stuffy space. Private areas are created by the use of a partition or curtain, maintaining the open plan of the space and adding flexibility.
Removing the lower part of the upstairs stairwell allows the insertion of a vertical carousel. This bespoke storage and records delivery system creates a striking visual ‘artwork’, as well as providing an imaginative solution to storage and access. A button on the wall circulates the records, which are compartmentalised and catalogued in the normal manner. Staff can access the records from two floors, which saves time and increases efficiency.
The success of Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre is demonstrated by its growing popularity. Throughout primary healthcare the relatively new phenomenon of ‘Skype’ consultations is increasingly recognised as an efficient way of consulting with patients affected by the pressures of work or by mobility issues. An appropriate space to accommodate this impending change puts further pressures on the surgery building and by default, its staff. The two-pronged design approach releases the potential of this surgery building, demonstrating that its principle concept can be adapted for many other healthcare practices as they face similar pressures.