News & Media

Image isn’t everything – but how can a building help?


Sometimes, special things happen when an NHS building gets a whole new look.

It’s what we were able to do recently at a former GP surgery in West Yorkshire, which was standing deserted but was still in a great location to support local patients. We’ve given it a complete refurbishment inside so that another surgery could move in, allowing that practice to leave the converted former house it had been running from for many years. The move gives the team state-of-the-art space: more consulting rooms, better waiting and reception areas and even the facilities for minor operations.

Whenever a practice moves into a new building or completes a refit or expansion of their existing premises, it’s easy to focus on what the building looks like. But projects like this are a reminder of some of the other changes that GPs and their teams sometimes detect when they move to better premises.

Since going over to the refurbished building in October, almost 300 more patients have joined this practice’s list. Crucially, it now has space and facilities to better cope with this increased demand.

Other practices we work with have told us about the impact of fit-for-purpose premises and innovative design on the behaviour patterns of patients; reception and waiting areas with more light and space can make a big difference to how difficult conversations pan out.

It’s not a new phenomenon; studies in other sectors have long tracked the impact of design for the way we use buildings and the way they influence the way we feel and act within them. In 2012, a Salford University team found that the colour, layout and lighting in classrooms can affect a child’s academic performance by as much as 25%. Numerous studies of hospital design have shown how the layout, décor and physical ambience of wards and visiting areas can help recovery times.

If the spaces in which we provide primary care can be so influential, are we paying enough attention to the way they look, feel and function for those who work inside them, and for the patients who receive their care there? Will the vision of 21st century primary care be constrained by the buildings we have now – or inspired by designs which look to the future?

claire rick 2

Claire Rick is our Head of Public Affairs

Watch the surgery’s transformation here: