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Blue Monday: The right space for headspace


How can waiting rooms affect patient mood?

Depression and other mental health issues are a huge part of your work.  Of the estimated 137 million sick days taken in the UK in 2017, 15.8 million of these were for mental health reasons.

With GP’s spending one day a week on mental health issues, it’s worth looking at some of the little things which can make a visit to your surgery site that little bit easier for patients with mood disorders like depression – such as your waiting room.

How can the layout of your waiting room help?

When was the last time you had someone ask for directions in your practice?

The layout of waiting rooms can have a major impact on patient’s mood, from feeling claustrophobic and unwelcome to a sense of space and cleanliness. In a study carried out by the Patients Association in 2018, they examined how waiting rooms can make patients feel stressed or anxious before they even enter their appointments. Their focus groups showed that better signage around GP practices and knowing which room to go to can ease patient stress – it can be difficult finding your way round a building if you don’t know a practice well or can’t see the screen for room allocation.

How can the design of the waiting room help?

A study from the University of Nottingham showed that creating a well-designed space with natural lighting and seating has a beneficial effect on those with poor health with participants from the Patients Association survey agreeing that a welcoming, well-designed environment makes them feel calmer.  Respondents also stated that they would like to see different colours used empathetically to affect moods. Many specialists have examined how colours affect mood with blues and greens being suggested to create a calming atmosphere and, as long as they’re clean, white walls for a sense of space. Participants also mentioned that decoration and colours should be thoughtfully chosen to help people with dementia, autism or mental health issues.

Gardens, plants and vegetation

Outside inside is a design model that we looked very closely at in our Designing the Future whitepaper. Various studies have pointed to the positive benefits for healing of green spaces and pleasant views in healthcare building design. By using internal planting in your GP practice with simple additions such as potted plants, you can add a personal touch and remove the feeling of an unloved waiting space.

A more pleasant waiting environment is just one small way to improve mood – and can say so much to your patients about how much you care.