Exploring the impact of the built environment
When thinking about the built environment or even design in isolation, it’s easy to underestimate the impact it can have – especially in the context of something as serious as cancer.
The Futures Company Report for Teenage Cancer Trust
In 2009 Teenage Cancer Trust commissioned The Futures Company to challenge that thought and demonstrate how design plays an integral role in helping young people fight cancer by providing a non-institutionalised medical environment within the National Health Service.
The aim of this study was to provide qualitative evidence of the impact that Teenage Cancer Trust units have on the experience of patients, their friends and family and the staff who work on the units.
The study shows that Teenage Cancer Trust’s unit environment creates positive benefits for patients as well as catering for the needs of family, friends and staff – all of whom are important and have a role in providing support, care and treatment.
For over 20 years Teenage Cancer Trust has been leading the world in the treatment and care of teenagers and young adults with cancer. By building and equipping unique specialist units within NHS hospitals, the charity aims to give the 2,000 young people in the UK diagnosed with cancer each year access to the best possible care and support in an environment tailored to meet their needs. Teenage Cancer Trust believes that by focusing on quality of life, the units help spur on young people's fight against cancer and increase their potential for survival.
Findings from this study clearly demonstrate that the built environment plays an integral role in delivering five key areas of benefit. Different benefits are of varying importance to patients, depending on their own circumstances such as their age, the length of time they have spent on the unit and their type of treatment.
These benefits are delivered through a combination of the environment itself, the facilities available on the unit and the staff themselves, with each of these elements reinforcing each other to create a positive philosophy.
The five key benefits together help to preserve normality for patients and their friends and family at what is a very frightening and uncertain time.
Five key benefits
These five main benefits areas are:
the capacity for patients to take control of important aspects of their day to day lives on the units, for example when to get up and go to sleep, what and when to eat, and control over lighting and levels of privacy.
The ability to keep in touch with normal social support networks and maintain all aspects of life.
Both physical and emotional comfort – appropriate and comfortable furniture and space for patients and their visitors. The creation of an atmosphere that is less institutionalised and threatening to both patients and their friends and family is also essential here.
The capacity and facilities for patients to be engaged and stimulated through activities and equipment, access to outside space and graphics or design on the walls and ceilings.
The ability to take ownership of their space and create a sense of home – often particularly important for longer term and end of life patients.
These benefit platforms build on as well as support the primary benefit of Best Medical Practice.
Underpinning the design of the units is an overriding need for practicality - to maximise the impact of the built environment, design must consider the specific needs of young people undergoing treatment. This includes details such as the angle of the TV when patients are lying in bed for hours on end and easy access to bathrooms that patients can visit several times a night. It is this attention to detail and ability to understand the needs of the different groups within the medical environment that creates the greatest impact.
The study offers compelling evidence to support the ongoing work of Teenage Cancer Trust and offers important transferable learnings applicable across other areas of healthcare.
Find out more
For a full copy of the report please contact:
The Service Development Team
020 7612 0370
Teenage Cancer Trust is grateful to the following for their support:
The Futures Company
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
The Futures Company
The Futures Company is a strategic insight and futures consultancy with a wealth of experience in understanding social change and using this knowledge to help clients with their strategic planning.
The Futures Company works with clients across government, including in education and health, with a particular focus on public service transformation.
Whilst the work was commissioned by Teenage Cancer Trust and their sponsors, The Futures Company acted independently and without influence. The study does not make any claims with regards to measurable medical outcomes, which fall outside the scope of the study.More