4 December 2017 | Finbarr Murray
Finbarr Murray, FM director at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust, discusses institutional greening in hospitals.
I walked past one of our internal mini 'green' courtyards this week and was delighted to see the effects that volunteers and staff have had on the appearance and usefulness of the space. What was a neglected space is now a tidy, lush green space that has transformed the outlook for patients, visitors and staff.
I have long been an advocate for 'greening' our hospitals, partly driven by my foray into renting an allotment. The other driver and the one that motivates me is the miles of sterile corridors, which while clean and in parts contain artwork and installations, primarily serve as a means to get from A to B. These spaces must seem lifeless and institutionalised to those having extended stays in or visits to a hospital.
This got me thinking whether 'greening' a hospital had health benefits as well as aesthetic appeal and whether we as FMs in hospitals could make a better case for going green. It's amazing to think that our predecessors seemed to have this link well understood with a belief that gardens were beneficial for patients. For example, during the Middle Ages in Europe, monasteries created gardens to bring soothing distraction to the ill as well as using the plants for treatment, themes that continued until recently.
Gardens became less prevalent in hospitals as major advances in medical sciences began to focus priorities on healthcare buildings that would reduce infection risk and serve as efficient settings for new medical practices.
But there's growing scientific evidence that viewing and interacting with natural settings can reduce patient stress and improve health outcomes has been a key driver in the international resurgence in interest in providing green designs in hospitals.
A quick look online reveals some great examples of greening spaces, with everything from living walls to well-maintained planting schemes to volunteering programmes like ours.
Finbarr Murray is director of FM estates and procurement at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust