New Designs to Transform Patient Privacy and Dignity in Hospitals

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.'

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

  • Gowns - the gowns will be available for hospitals to buy from early next year
  • 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.

Health Minister Ann Keen said:

'As a nurse, I know that patients expect and deserve not only high quality, safe and effective care, but a dignified experience when they go into hospital. It is essential that the high standard of work carried out by our skilled NHS staff is not undermined by patients feeling vulnerable and undignified when they receive treatment.

'The Design for Patient Dignity Programme is a groundbreaking initiative. Today, we have seen what can be produced by bringing designers, manufacturers, patients and experts together to help transform the hospital experience for millions.

'I have spent years being embarrassed by asking people to wear revealing patient gowns and I know that patients will feel far more confident with the new design. We want to ensure that patients' experience of the NHS goes from good to great and the exciting designs unveiled today show patients what they can expect from the NHS of the future.'

David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said:

'The prototypes launched today provide simple, practical responses to the healthcare issues that we all care about. Design for Patient Dignity demonstrates that when we listen to the public and bring frontline NHS staff together with industry, great innovation and enterprise thrives.'

The work followed extensive research into what issues matter most to patients, staff and experts, such as being able to discuss personal details without other patients hearing, being in a single-sex ward or bay, having single-sex toilet and washing facilities, having personal control over their environment, and improving hospital nightwear and gowns.

The teams were appointed following a nationwide search for designers and specialist manufacturers who could together develop designs, as well as create prototypes and put them into full-scale production for introduction to hospitals.

Over sixty design teams applied to the challenge, and were judged by a panel of the UK's most respected experts in design, patient care, hospital management and nursing. It is hoped the designs will be introduced to hospitals in 2011.

Six teams of designers and manufacturers, as well as healthcare design specialists from the Royal College of Art Helen Hamlyn Centre came up with innovative new designs that show how different privacy and dignity
issues could be solved.

These initial design concepts and prototypes will be tested and refined before being made available to hospitals, but what they demonstrate is how designers, working closely with patients and healthcare experts, can bring new thinking to real and important challenges and come up with creative new solutions.