Creating health in communities; the role of NHS spaces
Ask 10 members of the public to name one type of NHS building, and I would put money on more than half of them offering ‘a hospital’. This is, in the main, how we think about the NHS. Hospitals, hospitals, hospitals… and perhaps a local GP surgery.
As well as premises for treating ill-health, it is now well known that ‘space’ is an important building block in creating health; and the NHS can play its part. People need ‘physical spaces’ to connect with others, ‘emotional space’ for reflection and ‘systems space’ that makes it possible for communities to make their contribution. Having access to the right sort of physical spaces also offers people greater opportunity to employ and enjoy their skills and passions and this helps to build their confidence to take control. Having control over our lives and environments enhances people’s health and wellbeing; it is Health Creating.
In a piece of research The Health Creation Alliance (THCA) recently carried out for NHS Property Services, we sought to explore what it is that a range of people from many different types of ‘underserved’ communities really want from NHS premises, apart from treatments and medical services when they are poorly. You can find the publication here: THCA Creating community spaces for patient and community wellbeing.
We spoke to 10 ‘communities’ and asked them what it is about spaces, and about the processes involved in making those spaces available, that helps or hinders people to be well and stay well. We didn’t survey them, because surveys frequently don’t reach the people we wanted to reach, but we approached them through trusted relationships and talk to them in depth about what it is that people most value.
The 10 Communities
What we found is that what matters to different types of communities is more similar than we’d expected, and that diversity is widely welcomed. We also found that the differences in what matters, and why, between communities are often nuanced, and that the nuances are important to understand: we dug deep to bring them to the fore; here are a few of the highlights.
Many underserved groups have been let down by statutory services in the past so it is important to understand and work out how to overcome the trust-deficit. There is a desire to have more positive relationships and a willingness to engage, as long as services are listening. “A lot of communities have had such a lot taken away. The trust is gone... people think it’s a fad.”