Factors like reduced infection rates, more privacy and superior patient experience are driving the popularity of single-person rooms . The Architects' Journal explores what this means for hospital design.
Hospitals today seem to have returned to a Victorian model – not, of course, in their healthcare (although you might think so from all the NHS-in-crisis stories) – but in their architectural layouts: long, skinny blocks, pulled out into loops and chains: more reminiscent of the 1860s blocks of St Thomas’ Hospital strung along the Thames, rather than its 1960s YRM-designed stacked mega-block extensions.
Indeed the factors behind the 19th-century ‘pavilion’ principle advocated by Florence Nightingale – slenderly connected blocks ensuring segregation of infectious patients and good cross-ventilation – and those driving hospitals’ architecture today aren’t so very different. Now it is evidence-based healthcare design – charting applied research methods assessing building performance against patient recovery – that is leading the way, resulting in both a reappreciation of the benefits of natural light and views out for patients, but also a seemingly relentless drive towards single-person rooms (SPRs), which have been shown to reduce infection rates.
This renewed emphasis on the importance of the architectural layout of new hospitals in the healing process – a factor that usually played second fiddle to new service and medical technologies in the 20th century – should be welcomed, even if it often appears to result in identikit hotel-like strings of double-banked perimeter rooms.
Read more about the changing trend of hospital design here.