NHS 70: Beds and Wards


By Chris Thornton

Chris Thornton examines how flexible, innovative design solutions are the key to delivering patient-focused care.

Inpatient services underpin acute care across the NHS. While the winter weather may now seem a distant memory, the resulting cancellations of elective surgeries to relieve pressure on beds, increased waiting times for long-term bed spaces, ageing building stock, infection control challenges, combined with ever-changing technical memorandums and single versus multi-bed ratios, has taken its toll.

An NHS short of beds, capacity and money, needs to think differently: delivering flexible, innovative and affordable solutions that are agile enough to respond to the changing pressures and models of care, yet still satisfy stringent technical criteria.

Critical care facilities such as a major extension to Intensive Care facilities at Royal Surrey County Hospital inGuildford, create an uplifting environment, maximising daylight and exploiting views while enabling complex care. Recovery areas for theatres at East Surrey Hospital, create a sensitive environment in the heart of the hospital through the use of artwork, lighting and colour. Similarly, a small Coronary Care project at Salford Royal Hospital helps orientate patients, staff and visitors through carefully considered wayfinding and graphics.

Our architecture supports new models of care. The Emergency Floor at Worthing Hospital provides 68 beds, used flexibly, by a multi-disciplinary clinical team to support, and help ‘lean’ flow, through the emergency department releasing pressure from inpatient wards Different strands of care are brought to the patient, rather than moving them to their respective departments, freeing up beds to be used flexibly, within the broader care pathway.

Similarly, at St Thomas’ Hospital, 70 beds provide acute assessment as part of the Emergency Care Pathway. Challenges of restricted space and daylight are overcome via the use of diurnal lighting - orientating sensitive patients and staff.

Pressure on space standards and maintaining the correct ratio of single bed spaces - to multi bed wards - is an ongoing issue throughout the NHS. Our work at Frimley Park Hospital, explored the optimum ratio and balance of general medical beds within a restricted space, maximising flexibility while maintaining a patient-focused environment.

Increased efficiency in emergency department, ambulatory and assessment services, has had a knock-on effect on bed capacity in community and step-down facilities. Patient flow at East Surrey Hospital, was further improved by the development of a 24-bed step down unit, allowing flexibility in hospital capacity, complementing improved performance, and supporting patient reablement into social and community care.



Chris Thornton

Chris Thornton

Chris joined ADP in 1991. Leading our healthcare team, Chris is instrumental
in developing our work in the
health sector. Chris draws upon
his wide experience of
managing projects and clients,
to become a regular speaker
at healthcare conferences.