Page last updated at 08:34 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Patient privacy at heart of hospital redesign

By Anna-Marie Lever
Health reporter, BBC News

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Our health reporter, Anna-Marie Lever, tries on a hospital gown and chats to designer Ben de Lisi

Hospital gowns, bed bays, chairs and washrooms have been given a makeover to prevent patients being exposed and embarrassed.

The initiative, led by the Department of Health and the Design Council, aims to transform a stay in hospital, making it a more modest experience.

The Design for Patient Dignity programme has brought together seven teams of leading UK designers and manufacturers to help solve privacy and dignity issues for patients.

One of these designers is top fashion guru Ben de Lisi. While he is better known for his red carpet dresses, Mr de Lisi took on the challenge to make the backless hospital gown more respectable.

He said: "This is something that affects us all - we all have been in hospital in that horrible situation with your gown opening up at the back.

CAPSULE WASHROOM
Design Council Washpod
Fits into a bed bay space
Can be plumbed in over the weekend
Patients don't need to walk far to find a loo

"It was about well-being, not just about glamour. I wanted to make a difference."

Poppers for access

As well as the patient experience, Mr de Lisi also focused on practicalities, allowing for doctors and nurses to carry out their work.

He said: "Whether it is an actress on the red carpet that gown has to work for the occasion. It has to have the same philosophy, it has to be hard-working, effortless and timeless."

The gown is shaped like a large, long T-shirt. Rather than being tied at the back, like the old one, it is fastened at both sides using plastic poppers to allow drips, drains and fast access. Extra panels can be added at the sides to accommodate larger bodies.

Soon to be available

Health Minister Ann Keen welcomed the design: "As a nurse, I have spent years being embarrassed by asking people to wear revealing patient gowns and I know patients will feel far more confident with the new design."

Debbie Hutchinson, head of nursing for gynaecology at King's College Hospital, London, added: "We are an all-female ward and privacy is particularly important - we do transport patients around the hospital and they can feel quite vulnerable, so I think this a great improvement."

BEDPOD
 Design Council bedpod
Curved ceiling to absorb private conversations
Can be put up in a day
Patient has electronic control of curtains

The gowns will be available for hospitals to buy from early next year, at the same cost as the old ones.

A number of other designs to protect modesty were also revealed at the launch. These included:

BedPod - a bed module that can be installed in a day due to its modular design. It has its own curved ceiling to absorb noise, so people in adjacent beds are unable to hear private conversations. Patients have their own curtains that they can open and close electronically.

Capsule washroom - a loo, washbasin, and shower all contained in a pod that can be plumbed into existing water and waste pipes over the weekend. It is the same size as a bed bay, so can be put up on any ward to increase the number of washing facilities.

Reclining day chair - a unique hybrid between a wheelchair and a bed which reclines at a 110 degree angle, the position for maximum comfort. Can be used for day case surgery patients or those on dialysis.

David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council, said: "Here it is a win, win, win situation, for the patients, for the NHS as a whole, for the taxpayer because this is making savings to the system, but also for British business.

"At a time when the economy needs it most, here British designers and British manufacturers have been brought together and that is creating revenues and jobs for Britain."



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