DIMHN workstreams

construction, on every product, there is a British or European standard you can specify for the performance of the product, but in mental health there is pretty much nothing applicable standards-wise.” Among the resulting problems, Philip Ross, a director of Safehinge Primera, explained, were a consequent slowing down of the design process, and a difficult ‘negotiations process’ for contractors. He said: “All this sometimes leads to a sluggish system, which can throttle innovation.” The initial focus for a suite of new standards would, he explained, be on doors, windows, and ironmongery, with furniture and sanitaryware ‘following on closely’. He added: “We can’t include all products, but will try to capture some elements within generic processes and tests; key assessment points will be anti-ligature properties and robustness. These seem the key elements neglected in testing currently. There will be some specifics too, such as anti-barricade for doors and ironmongery, and air and light transfer for windows.”


Philip Ross explain that of the four years spent working with BRE on the initiative so far, the past two had been ‘the most intensive’ – ‘trying to figure out what we are trying to achieve, and how we can structure the development of the testing’. He said: “We have already had two workshops with industry – from both the manufacturing and the estates side – and for the past year have been working closely with BRE on the agreement to develop our partnership. The impact of the Grenfell Tower fire has had some effect in slowing our progress, since the fire’s aftermath swallowed much of BRE’s resource. The reality also starts to hit home when you look at the costs entailed in developing standards. We have also had to focus on how you can certify a product and who takes liability at that juncture.”

The ‘upshot to date’, Philip Ross explained, had been a focus on a testing and accreditation system which allows a ‘test and declare’ approach. He elaborated: “That is partly to deal with the risk factor, and to allow us to test each product, and have its performance declared; potential users can then view this and determine whether the item is appropriate for their care pathway. There are a couple of accompanying benefits – we would have a number of parameters that will be graded for every product, and design and construction teams would set out at the start of a project what they were looking for in terms of each specific requirement, match products against the assessment we have set up, and then shortlist accordingly. We also hope to work to create some standard suggested arrangements for common user groups – for example medium secure or CAMHS environments.”

FUNDS COMMITTED DIMHN had already, he explained, committed £10,000 to the initiative, and in the week immediately preceding the DIMH 2018 event, BRE’s board had committed to work on the first stage of development, contributing its own resource alongside that of the Design in Mental Health Network’s contribution. “We see two main stages of development – the testing and evaluation guidance, setting out the framework


One hundred per cent of respondents to the survey had said a best practice process would be ‘helpful to follow’

for testing, and, secondly, establishing a testing partnership between DIMHN and BRE,” Philip Ross explained. “To date neither party has committed to the second part; our first goal was to get on and set out the framework for testing.” As he closed his part of the workstream presentation, he exhorted all with an interest in the development of standards to go online, visit the DIMHN website, and ‘get involved’. He said: “We are aiming to have a standard by this time next year, and over the next six months will be focusing on the Stage 1 development, for which we will need industry input and expertise to tell us what the mental health community actually wants from its standards.”

STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT The next to speak was architect, Cath Lake, a director at P+HS Architects, who leads the Stakeholder Engagement Workstream. She told delegates: “As an architect, stakeholder engagement is something that I am passionate about; we can’t create really good buildings unless everybody that uses them is involved in the design process.” She explained that all DIMHN members would have received a survey in the preceding few months, and from the feedback received she had been surprised that 83 per cent of those surveyed reported already having a policy in place for stakeholder engagement. She said: “This really surprised me, because I very rarely see any evidence from our clients. The same 83 per cent do create an engagement plan – although I don’t see anything on this front consistently across our client base, while 100 per cent said they

include stakeholder engagement throughout the design and evaluation stages, but, again, not always consistently, and not always using the same people throughout the process. However, the response we got back suggested that feedback on completed projects – when all the stakeholders have been involved in the design – is so much better.” One hundred per cent of respondents to the survey had also said a best practice process would be ‘helpful to follow’, and indeed this was something this workstream had been looking to develop over the past few months. Cath Lake told delegates: “One of the common problems highlighted in designing new projects has been getting all the different stakeholders involved – whether in terms of time, consistency, or availability to consult.

REVISITING DESIGN DECISIONS “People have also wanted to revisit design decisions already made – something that I am sure nearly everybody in this room has encountered at some point professionally. Another issue has been coming up against conservative practices, and risk aversion, which we understand, while many users don’t know what they want, which begs the question: ‘How do we find out what people want without them being able to express it?’” ‘Budget against expectation’ was also an issue ‘quite commonly encountered’, the architect said.

The Handbook of

Mental Health and Space: Community and Clinical Applications is published this month.

“One of the ways to improve engagement is thus to be quite specific about the kind of stakeholder input required throughout the different design stages. If we all follow the RIBA Design stages, these build detail by detail, and stress that different people should be involved throughout the various stages. Better documentation of engagement decisions allows us to go back if we need to, and show we have made robust decisions. It is also important to plan well in advance; we appreciate that, particularly in the NHS, everybody has a day job, but we still need to

Cath Lake (left), who leads the Stakeholder Engagement Workstream, said: “As an architect, stakeholder engagement is something I am passionate about; we can’t create really good buildings unless everybody that uses them is involved in the design process.” Russell Hogarth (right) said: “Our vision… is to have an international conference itinerary within 3-5 years.”

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