News & Media

Better waiting areas can’t wait


GP waiting areas have the potential to lead the charge for innovation in primary care building design in the NHS’ next 70 years – according to our new report.

In our research, international healthcare building designs show how traditional waiting rooms may evolve – with different approaches allowing patients to work, shop, eat and browse information while they wait to see the doctor.

In a white paper following our work to look at international examples of healthcare buildings, we highlight examples of zoned spaces in waiting areas, creative lighting, and designs which link with nature and outside space in helping patients to feel more relaxed when they visit a medical centre.

Our Head of Development, Simon Gould, says: “There is a real theme to many of the healthcare buildings we’ve looked at from around the world in that their waiting areas are – most often – worlds away from the spaces we typically see in healthcare buildings here in the UK.

“If we’re looking ahead another 70 years, that’s the design element that we think will change most significantly for patients and there’s much that primary care buildings can take from other sectors where we ‘wait’ – like leisure venues. Ultimately, the space you’re waiting in affects how you feel when you’re in it. Helping patients to feel more at ease in buildings where they visit the GP and wider primary care services, and making their waiting time more useful, can only be a good thing for our wellbeing.”

In our report, healthcare architects Steve West and Jim Hart say: “A better building, a better environment can make you feel better before you’ve even seen a doctor. It’s more than bricks and mortar and steel; it’s creating internal spaces which impart a sense of wellbeing…Thoughtfully-created waiting spaces and seats, colours, natural light, ventilation, nature – all of those things make a patient feel far, far better.”

There are 7,527 GP practices in England, and 41,324 GPs. GP surgeries are the buildings in which most patient contact in the NHS takes place, yet as healthcare spaces and workplaces for NHS staff, many fall short. Assura estimates that more than one third are conversions – former Victorian terraces, 1960s bungalows and run-down former offices are common. In the BMA’s 2014 research with almost 4,500 practices, 40% felt their premises were inadequate, making it a struggle to provide even basic GP services. Six in ten GPs reported having to share desks or consulting rooms, with four in ten reporting that this limits the number of appointments they can offer. Seven in ten said their premises are too small to deliver more services.

Read our report in full DOWNLOAD PDF