Thursday, February 01, 2007

A Healthy Health Centre

Today I was working in Dewsbury, a place which has hitherto been as remote to me as, say, Texas.

I was working at Dewsbury Health Centre. I have visited many hospitals in Yorkshire during the course of my work with students, and many of them are run-down and depressing. The walls are covered with faded paint and the ancient orange plastic chairs wobble because their legs came out of alignment many bottoms ago. The waiting-rooms are crowded and claustrophobic.

Not this one! It's very new and I liked it a lot. Here's the huge waiting area:

While I was waiting for my session to start I had plenty of time to try to work out why it felt so good.

The very high ceiling gave it a feeling of space - and in fact, there was space, even if all the chairs had been full. The top part of the ceiling was actually a window, so there was lots of natural light.

The carpet was brown and fawn, which sounds dull, but the green (hurrah!) of the walls and chairs made it more interesting and it gave it all a restful feel. I've been in many hospitals where someone has hoped to cheer the place up by painting everything lemon yellow or bright red or purple and it just feels artificial - "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE! BUT LET'S KEEP SMILING, EH?"

Also, it was neither too hot not too cold - a definite first for any kind of health centre, in my experience. And - perhaps because it's quite new - it didn't have that municipal kind of a smell. Where does that come from? Do they hire someone to come round and empty out disinfectant and piss in equal quantities, just so everyone will know it's that kind of building?

Finally, they had made some effort to give the patients some art to look at while they waited. There were some fabric pictures - predominant colour GREEN hurrah - of the kind that would thrill nobody and offend nobody, but the colours were good.

And, rather more interestingly to me, there was a whole forest of wooden leaves on one wall.

A bit different from the usual Municipal Art and I rather liked them - it was good to see some natural materials in a modern building.

All in all, it looked like a place someone had put some thought into. Of course, environment is very important to help patients to feel comfortable and to aid their recovery. Blindingly obvious, and so rarely put into practice. So it's good to see a medical centre designed by someone who seems to understand that.


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