Inpatient Environments

Pushing the boundaries of bedroom design

Seven years have elapsed since members of the Design In Mental Health Network first discussed designing and building a ‘mock-up’ mental healthcare inpatient bedroom to enable evaluation of the latest products and technologies targeted at such environments in a realistic setting. Here, DIMHN chair, Jenny Gill, looks back at the considerable progress in developing the Better Bedroom, and explains the latest plans to now focus on other inpatient environments where improvements are due.

In 2009 a discussion took place at a Design In Mental Health Network meeting upon hearing that yet another mock-up bedroom was about to be built by an NHS Trust to enable it to test the robustness and resilience of items such as furniture, windows, and doors. We acknowledged that while these could be invaluable, they did draw on resources that could otherwise be spent elsewhere on the scheme.

The discussion then took a flight of fancy – ‘what if we could build a bedroom?’ We could then feature the latest technologies, products, and thinking, within a realistic environment. It could be a valuable resource through which professionals involved in planning, designing, constructing, and operating from, mental healthcare buildings could make informed decisions. We could invite feedback and update and advance product development to improve the therapeutic environment of the bedroom, which is, after all, the single most important room in the building for a service-user. Additionally, it could help to reduce the number

of mock-ups being built, goods being tested, and money spent, by giving NHS Trusts somewhere to go where all these things were available to look at and discuss. In 2011 our flight of fancy began to grow wings; the more we discussed it the more excited we became, but what did we need to make it a reality?


The first thing we needed was space to build it, somewhere that was relatively easy to access, that visitors could be welcomed to and shown the room, and where they could sit and discuss it afterwards. The bedroom and en suite would need a minimum of 24 square metres to enable

Britplas’ chairman, Kevin Gorman, a founder member of the Design In Mental Health Network, volunteered space in the company’s Warrington showroom to house the first Better Bedroom.

it to be built, not a small space to commandeer. At about this time Britplas acquired new premises in Warrington, Cheshire. The company’s chairman, Kevin Gorman, who was also a founder member of the Design In Mental Health Network, volunteered the space in the new showroom for us to build the bedroom. This was too good an offer to turn down, so a dedicated Better Bedroom Panel, which I chaired, was formed. The panel consisted of Andrew Arnold from Gilling Dod Architects, Gerald Smith of Laing O’Rourke, Jerry Smith of Primera Life, Kevin Gorman from Britplas, Peter Ball (formerly of BRE), and Joe Forster, clinician (and current-day DIMHN President). And so, down to business.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES First we developed the aims and objectives for the Better Bedroom. Initially our aim was very simple – it was to ‘create a modern, homely bedroom that offers a therapeutic and safe environment’. We hoped that the creation of what came to be known as the Better Bedroom would result in a room that would: • Support good practice and clinical excellence.

• Produce measurable positive effects on clinical outcomes, and aid the recovery process.

• Provide a safe haven for service-users in a familiar and homely environment.

• Provide a safe environment which minimises risk.

• Push the boundaries of current design to a new level, particularly in anti-ligature fittings and fixtures.

• Use the most up-to-date technology. • Stimulate and encourage the development of better products.

• Be cost-effective over the whole lifecycle.

Britplas’ Warrington headquarters house the ‘original’ Better Bedroom, which proved very popular, attracting a wide range of visitors.

‘DRAGON’S DEN’ Keeping these aims firmly in mind, we began work on the bedroom. Our architect, Andrew Arnold from Gilling Dod, brought us plans for the bedroom, while Gerry Smith from Laing O’Rourke project managed the build. We advertised our quest for innovative products through not just the Network’s members, but also through our own personal networks, and then held a ‘Dragon’s Den’, where we identified a number of products we wanted to place into the bedroom. We were delighted with the response from all those involved, and the generosity in donating

THE NETWORK J a n u a r y 2 016 11

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