News & Media

Hall or nothing: Coming to the doctor is not a sign of weakness.


Many men admit they put off going to the doctor as long as possible – sometimes even when they’re experiencing life-threating symptoms, with one of the main reasons being fear. This was one of the themes of the latest episode of GPs: Behind Closed Doors, filmed at our Hall Green Medical Centre building in Birmingham.

With over 26,000 patients, it’s an issue the team sees regularly, and the GPs check up regularly on their male patients and ensure that they feel like they can talk.

“Coming to the doctor, they feel like it’s a sign of weakness and they should just pull themselves together. What I’d like to say is sorting out and dealing with situations you’re in is actually a sign of strength,” said Dr Damien Williams.

Anxiety about visiting the doctor isn’t just a male issue, though – and the design of healthcare buildings and environments can make a big difference. Our research with a range of national charities has found that small changes to healthcare spaces can go a long way to helping patients feel safe, less stressed and to access services in the first place.

Our Building Better Together research with Dimensions found that people with disabilities and their carers made a clear connection between the environment and how stressed or relaxed they felt there. People who said that the GP surgery or health centre environment didn’t meet their needs were more stressed – and some said that feeling stressed could lead to them leaving the building and missing appointments.

Our research with the Patients Association found that the layout of waiting areas can make patients feel stressed or anxious before even entering the building. The study showed that better signage and knowing which room to go to can ease patient stress, while careful choices of colours and décor can help people living with dementia, autism or mental health issues.

Our more recent study with the charity looked at confidence to return to primary care spaces after the pandemic – with 47% of patients who’d had to attend their practice building last year reporting to feeling anxious to some degree. Clear signage, hand sanitiser points, one-way systems and floor markings for social distancing were all factors that patients felt would help them feel more comfortable to be in healthcare buildings at the moment.

We want to know what you think would help men, particularly, feel less anxious in healthcare buildings and environments? You can give your suggestions here.