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Outside of the Guys Hospital Cancer Centre Building Open House visitors at Guys Hospital Cancer Centre

Designing for better patient outcomes

Steve McGuire and Diana Crawshaw

The new Cancer Centre at London’s Guy’s Hospital was a collaborative project, with the voice of patients at its heart. That’s because we know there is a positive impact on patients if they are treated in a better environment.

The £160M facility opened in September 2016 and was designed with the patients, for the patients. It is part of the trust’s vision for creating a hospital that doesn’t feel like a hospital.

It starts with convenience: the centre brings together under one roof treatments that were previously delivered across 13 different locations in eight buildings – much less wayfinding and travelling for vulnerable and often very ill people to do.

Radiotherapy is conventionally housed in basements – from structural and radiation shielding viewpoints, it makes sense to house the heavy machines underground. But a subterranean facility does little for the emotional and psychological wellbeing of patients. The centre is the first in Europe to provide radiotherapy above ground, so that patients can see outside. Art, colour and cosy meeting areas all contribute to creating spaces that feel welcoming and positive rather than cold and clinical.

The building team also had regular contact with residents to ensure their lives were not affected too much by the building. Also, local people were employed to work on the project, providing jobs and skills training, as well as the opportunity to feel they had contributed to something important.

For the Patient Reference Group, the centre is a wonderful example of how having patients as the focus of design can produce uplifting infrastructure. And for the hospital’s project management organisation, Essentia, it is a showcase for what can be achieved by the NHS.

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