Having spent impossibly long hours staring at blank walls in hospitals with a friend waiting for his appointments with doctors, craving distraction from where we were I couldn’t miss out on going along to a couple of events celebrating London Creativity and Wellbeing Week. Many would consider a hospital not the usual place to view an art exhibition, however increasingly research based evidence shows the beneficial effects of artworks in healthcare environments improves wellbeing and clinical outcomes. I wouldn’t choose to spend time in a hospital but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity of going to a couple of events to find out what was going on.
The first event I went to was at the curators tour of paintings to view part of the charity Paintings in Hospitals collection at University College Hospital. The charity hires art works out to hospitals and a selection of the paintings available for hire are displayed in a hospital corridor. It is used by patients, staff and visitors and it was uplifting to see artworks used to change the mood of the environment to make it a more approachable less medical space.
I’m fortunate I’m a good sleeper but I can well imagine how distressing sleep disorders can be to people unlucky enough to be affected by them. The Centre for Sleep at the Royal Brompton Hospital is a newly designed clinic based in the Old Fire Station. Repurposing of a building can give liscense to much knocking about with the subsequent loss of integral character. Not so with the sympathetic restoration of sleep clinic building, which has saved the glorious design features like the tall fire station doors along with the hose drying flue and the chunky functional hardware.
Not only that but there is a wealth of thoughtful artwork by cartoonist Steven Appleby who worked closely with the arts team producing a rich collection of imagery based on the understanding of sleep. The design of the spaces with clear signage and artwork humanise the environment. The space in the reception area is dramatically divided by a large glass installation over 3 meter high. There are also images describing sleep patterns some drawn directly on the walls others framed layered pictures.
With questions currently hanging over quality of care in the health service, I came away from the experiences feeling the artworks are not trying to be like a cure all pill to pop, but carefully considered environment makes hospital a more human experience for both patients and staff.