Hospital stays in the UK are at an all time high, in part, because geriatric and palliative care wards have become default locations for patients with multiple health problems who rotate in an in an end-of-life, time-share mode until they die. But patients with multiple and complex problems such as diabetes, poor circulation and depression deserve living solutions rather than the token gestures that have been masquerading as improvements in recent years.
Architects have helped to blur the boundary between a social care institution and clinical accommodation.
Architects have helped to blur the boundary between a social care institution and clinical accommodation with designs for hospitals that attempt integration with life outside: windows and single rooms so that hospital wards feel more like a home away from home.
An illness holiday with add-ons that include extended visiting hours and in-house access to quality chain food outlets. Even pediatric wards, with music and displays of art works have evolved into therapeutic playgrounds, and all to entice friends and relatives to commune with the sufferer in a degree of comfort and at a time that fits their busy schedule.
All very 20th century and completely unaffordable.
But our hospitals are not private homes, shopping malls nor holiday resorts. They are places where serious illness is identified and managed, and where more than one medical, not social, problem can be dealt with at a time.
As medicine ameliorates more and more illnesses we will all live longer, fitter lives with chronic illnesses that won’t kill us but may require brief hospitalization, and this is the problem our hospitals need to address.
Conditions such as heart attacks, diabetes or arthritis will become additive and part of the living baggage of citizens who do not wish to spend their latter years being shunted from one hospital ward to the next.
Proposed strike action by junior doctors earlier this month should be a signal for governments to find a solution to the clinician angst about proper and appropriate care for patients, financed from budgets other than the beleaguered NHS.
Hospitals are residences for the very sick. For those patients recovering from interventions or procedures we need new architecture that transitions them out of hospital to a place where they can regain their confidence and manage at home. In short, we’re after a 21st century innovation where patients can rely on short term support as they transition between hospital and home. A “Carebnb” solution would only require a sprinkling of funding and a harnessing of community commitment.