Inpatient Environments

Matthew Balaam of Oxford Architects came forward to offer his services as project manager.

viewed over 60 submissions, created a shortlist of products from 30 companies, and invited them to meet with the panel to demonstrate them. A two-day session was held in Worthing and, at the end of this, the components, fixtures, and fittings, had been chosen for BB2. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons – one being financial constraints – the refurbishment in Sussex was not to be, and in early 2015 a halt was called to the process. and that was the end of Better Bedroom 2, or so we thought. We reckoned that, without the ingenuity and determination of those involved, this project would never have got off the ground. Within hours though Knightsbridge Furniture had offered us the use of its stand at our conference in May (2015) to build the Better Bedroom 2, and every single company involved had agreed to go ahead. Thanks to a lot of good will and hard work by many people, we were thus able to build a bedroom at the conference.

The first Better Bedroom, at Britplas’ headquarters, designed and built following the establishment of a dedicated Better Bedroom Panel.

not only the products, but equally the time and expertise to make sure that the bedroom was a success. Of course because everyone was assisting us on a voluntary basis, the deadlines slipped on a number of occasions because the ‘day job’ got in the way. Finally, at the Healthcare Estates Conference and Exhibition 2012, we were able to launch the Better Bedroom, and to invite people to attend our open days. The bedroom proved popular, and we held regular open days which allowed over 500 people, including service-users, carers, clinicians, healthcare professionals, and design professionals, to visit the bedroom. What was clear was the desire by everyone to improve the environment for service-users. Time and time again the importance of the bedroom, which is the only private space available to someone suffering with a mental illness when they are an inpatient, was stressed, as was how the room can impact on recovery, and assist in helping people to feel safe and secure.


The enthusiasm and interest in the bedroom was infectious, and manufacturers began to work both individually and collaboratively to look at improving products – work that is still very much ongoing.

Visits resulted in feedback, and in 2014 we updated the room – creating the Better Bedroom 2 – to take on board some of this feedback. One example was the bed. A fixed bed with a straight side can make it difficult for people to stand up, as you cannot get your heels behind your knees to gain purchase. This was easily rectified by curving the bottom of the side. A simple but effective cure. We had always said that we wanted to build a Better Bedroom 2 in a location more easily accessible for those in the South of England. In 2013 Matthew Balaam of Oxford Architects came forward to offer his services as project manager. It has been a series of highs and lows for Matthew – often a case of two steps forward

12 THE NETWORK J a n u a r y 2016

Design In Mental Health Network chair, Jenny Gill.

and one step back, but we did create BB2, although not where we originally thought it would be.

SITES OFFERED AND DISCUSSED A number of sites were offered and discussed, and preparations commenced. During this time P21+ had commenced work on its Repeatable Bedroom initiative. Following the success of the team’s acute room initiative, its attention turned to the mental health bedroom, and the DIMHN was pleased to host a visit by the group to see the ‘first’ Better Bedroom in Warrington. It became clear that P21+ and the Better Bedroom initiative were working towards similar ends, to raise awareness of good design. However, while P21+ was looking for standardisation as a means of driving down costs, we were working to stimulate debate and innovation. Nevertheless, today’s innovation is tomorrow’s standardisation, and both are equally important to everyone. To acknowledge this, we amended our aim for BB2 to: ‘The aim of the Better Bedroom is to raise awareness of good mental health design, stimulating debate and innovation and moving design and the service-user environment to the next level’. At this juncture our collaborative working led to the possibility of two bedrooms opening side by side – Better Bedroom 2 and a P21+ repeatable mental health bedroom. Initially the rooms were to be created within a building at Swandean Hospital in Worthing, courtesy of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

CALL FOR PRODUCTS LAUNCHED At the Design in Mental Health Conference in May 2014 we launched a call for products – suppliers and manufacturers were asked to submit details of their newest and most innovative products, suitable for use in the mental health environment. A panel of ‘Dragons’ was convened, drawing on expertise from all areas involved in mental health services, design, and construction. The panel


This all showed what can be achieved when there is a willingness and determination to succeed. The room was visited at least once by everyone who attended the conference and exhibition over a two-day period, probably being viewed by more visitors in two days than we had seen at 10 open days. It was so popular and so successful that we propose to do it all again this year. An updated Better Bedroom 2 will be on show at the 2016 Design in Mental Health Conference and Exhibition at the National Motorcycle Museum, Birmingham, being held from 17-18 May this year. We know of a number of Trusts who are using the Better Bedroom as the basis for their upcoming new builds and refurbishments. If you are one of these, please let us know; we would really like to know what you liked, what you are improving on, and what else you would like to see. To provide any feedback, please contact me:

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE So, where next? We believe that we have achieved what we set out to do, most notably: • Raising awareness both of the importance of the bedroom to the service-user, and of how good design impacts on the lived experience and aids recovery.

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

• Using the most up-to-date technology. • Stimulating and encouraging the development of better products.

‘We were delighted with the response from all those involved, and the generosity in donating not only the products, but equally the time and expertise to make sure that the bedroom was a success’

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