The article by Mike Nightingale ('Health Practice', AJ 14.2.02) was a timely reminder about the need to raise the profile of health buildings in architectural education. However, it is not just in schools of architecture where we should be looking at the design of medical environments. We should be encouraging a closer dialogue between doctors and architects at all levels.
Increasingly, there is greater awareness of the interaction between the health of the individual and the environment in which a person lives, and the medical profession is adopting a much more holistic approach towards the treatment of patients. Medical schools are widening their curricula to embrace modules in the arts and humanities in the pre-clinical years. The Centre for Arts and Humanities in Health and Medicine (CAHHM), the research group at Durham University, is already providing such opportunities at its new Medical Campus at Stockton-on-Tees, as are other medical schools.
The government accepts the advantages of good design, and the health service is such a large part of our economy (the NHS is the largest business in Europe, and employs one in 20 of the working population in the UK) that there are huge opportunities for the architectural and medical professions to interact more closely about the benefits of good design. The sense of well-being in a humane environment has design and cost benefits for society as a whole.
With the development of primary healthcare facilities a major plank of Government investment in the next few years, there is an opportunity for schools of architecture to take the initiative, develop programmes with their medical colleagues to examine the design of health environments, and encourage the next generation of architects to look more closely at the factors which give us a sense of well-being.
Geoffrey Purves, Newcastle upon Tyne