The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we all live and work with healthcare centres being at the forefront of change. The NHS has stressed how important it is for patients to get medical help, calling on healthcare practices to adjust to the social distancing measures as quickly as possible.
Many medical healthcare centres have already implemented many of the following rules to keep patients safe:
- Greater emphasis on the use of online consultations as part of the NHS ‘Digital First’ agenda.
- Avoiding non-essential face-to-face visits
- Creating safer waiting room areas
- Requiring patients to have a temperature check before entry
- Requiring patients to wear a face-covering
- Preventing queues by ensuring patients arrive just in time for an appointment
- Running remote clinics where possible
- Sending prescriptions electronically to the chemist
- Use of one-way systems to segregate patients entering and leaving surgeries
However, we believe there is still more healthcare centres can do to create a safer environment for staff and patients.
The winter pressures
The changing weather means healthcare centres will soon feel the pressure of increased traffic. Despite the rise in remote consultations, surgeries across the country will have to provide extra in-person appointments to deal with seasonal illnesses and vaccinations. While doing so, healthcare centres will still be expected to follow social distancing measures.
Pre-Covid-19, patients expected overcrowded waiting areas. Unorganised and cramped waiting areas can increase anxiety in patients whereas spacious waiting rooms with access to light and natural ventilation make patients feel more at ease.
With a suspected increase in face-to-face appointments, and with social distancing guidelines to follow, waiting areas could be considered an extension of the therapeutic space, providing a spacious area that helps keep patients relaxed and safe.
Unfortunately, most healthcare buildings are not purpose-built and haven’t been developed with the end-user in mind. Narrow corridors are common in healthcare centres and limit patient movement. Due to many healthcare centres not having worked with a specialist healthcare property service before, corridors haven’t been considered as key circulation areas.
Where possible, healthcare centre managers should consider rearranging corridors to create a better sense of flow, including defining one-way systems when necessary to avoid close contact. This will make it easier for multiple patients or staff members to pass each other while following government guidelines.
Creating a safer centre
To create a safe space for patients that complies with government regulation, in many cases healthcare centres are already adjusting to the new normal. However, in cases where space is limited and causing issues, healthcare centre managers should consider seeking healthcare property specialists that can assist them in developing long term premises solutions that will benefit the practice and community for years to come.
Current Approach to COVID Compliant Buildings
Apollo is currently at the forefront of delivering state of the art medical facilities where we have had to adapt our approach to building design in response to the Covid pandemic. Some of the new approaches to design include:
- Clear zoning within our buildings that provides for ‘hot zones’ allowing clinicians to see potentially infected patients without compromising the continued operation of a building.
- Inclusion of separate entrances to a building with remote door entry systems, which help our clients with their patient segregation strategies, making social distancing easier.
- Reception desk designs now incorporate screens that help keep reception staff safe from potential sources of infection, which mirrors the approach taking in a retail environment.
At Apollo, we have delivered specialist healthcare property services for over 20 years working in partnership with GP practices, NHS bodies and other service providers. Our consultancy service can offer strategic development advice and property management to help you adjust and comply with social distancing regulations that could remain for the foreseeable future.