Title: Operation design: hospitals for today and tomorrow
Author: Dennis Cheetham
Text: Operation design: hospitals for today and tomorrow
"The hospital is a place for healing the sick - and a hotel and a factory, too." This definition - offered by one of the experts who write in this special issue of DESIGN - is a key to the immense challenge of Britain's hospital service. Why, specifically, is it a challenge to design ?
One of design's recent preoccupations has been the value of its contribution to society. Most notably, the 1965 congress of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design took as its theme Design and the Community. And a hospital is a community in miniature. More than this, it is a community that exists in a state of extreme tension. Consider the patient who may be a man smashed up in an accident; a woman apprehensive in the last stages of her first pregnancy; a child bewildered and frightened in a completely strange world. The patient needs a reassuring atmosphere, a sense of individual care, and above all swift and efficient treatment. Consider the staff - the consultant, needing to bring accurate diagnosis to patient after patient; the surgeon, maintaining a virtuoso degree of skill during a whole day's operating; the nurse, working long and irregular hours under physical and mental stress.
Design could - and should - be working for all these people, all the time. From the patient's bedside locker to the equipment in the operating theatre to the design of the hospital itself, everything has to be right. Making it right means planning. And planning means design. Because when you have a problem of the urgency and complexity that a hospital involves, design is not just a question of a dash of colour here and a bit of equipment there - it is a way of thinking, a method of approach, a problem-solving activity.
We know well enough, of course, that at present everything is not right. Not by a long way. But this issue is not intended to be an inquiry into the unsatisfactory aspects of the hospital service. We have asked the people who have written it - and they are all of them closely involved with hospitals at specialist level -to concentrate rather on this vital business of planning for the hospitals of today and tomorrow.
The issue coincides with a Design Centre exhibition of the same title, Operation Design, which is on show from March 9-April 11. Organised by the Col D with the support of the Ministry of Health and the King Edward's Hospital Fund for London, it will display hospital and medical equipment in areas representing six different parts of a hospital; and it will be a practical illustration of the results of the planning methods and techniques described in this issue. Its aim -to show how much design thinking goes into medical equipment-will be demonstrated in a reception area; a consultant's examination room; a laboratory area; award; an intensive after-care unit; and a surgical area.