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New study aims to make GP practices more accessible for those with cognitive impairments


A new study has been launched to help make primary care buildings more accessible, supportive and comfortable for people with conditions such as dementia, autism and anxiety.

We have teamed up with the University of Worcester’s Association for Dementia Studies on the ‘Design for Everyone’ project, which is seeking to improve experience for a wide range of patients, staff and carers when they visit their local GP premises.

The project will explore different approaches to designing healthcare environments for people with cognitive impairments.

It’s one of the first times building design will be specifically looked at to encompass dementia‐friendly principles as well as those associated with autism and other neurodivergent conditions.

The work builds on our recent push to achieve the first ‘Dementia Friendly’ accredited GP surgery in the UK and will create a guide to efficient and accessible building design as well as a bespoke assessment tool which will be used in our future building plans and to develop new skills for our staff.

Sarah Waller CBE, Associate Specialist at the Association for Dementia Studies, which specialises in researching and educating people on person‐centred care, said: “We are delighted to have the opportunity of working with Assura on this ground‐breaking project. A well-designed building is a critical but often overlooked element of providing excellent healthcare and in supporting both patients and staff. Assura has a track record in innovation and this project will draw on patient feedback, research evidence and best practice to create environments that encourage and enable everyone to participate fully in their care.”

The project aims to provide a guide and assessment tool which we will use to identify improvements to our current buildings and will look to establish examples of best practice when it comes to accessible building design for its pipeline of future developments.

Our Senior Development Manager, Jon Webb, said: “Primary care spaces are far more than bricks and mortar and given the experiences of this year, their role as key places for health in our communities has never been more crucial. But they have to work for everyone, and we know that the design of many older primary care buildings can be particularly difficult for people with cognitive conditions – and can even impact on whether people who are most in need of local health services access them at all. We want to make sure our buildings serve everyone who uses them, and that’s why this is a landmark project, focussing on improving access and patient experience.”

The work builds on our previous studies with the Patients Association and Dimensions to look at the challenges of the current NHS estate for patients with disabilities.

The outcomes from ‘Design for Everyone’ will be made publicly available and the hope is that it will aid and inform future design across the NHS primary care estate.

It is estimated that the project will complete in late spring 2021