2020 was a wakeup call, highlighting the need to be generally more prepared for health threats. While the vaccination programme in the UK has commenced and provides hope during this third national lockdown, we need to be prepared and able to respond more effectively next time. And not just for future pandemics but other threats that can have a severe impact on our health service such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks.
The impact of the pandemic is not only seen in those who have tested positive and had hospital stays as a result, but also other areas of the health system. It had a knock on effect on the number of people able to go through with elective procedures and surgeries as beds were reallocated to those needing general acute and critical care beds due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, fewer people attended A&E for several reasons including fear of hospital-acquired infection and not wanting to overwhelm the health service.
We need hospitals to be more resilient in future, to reduce this ripple effect as much as possible. We must be able to create the surge capacity when needed, without it being a detriment to other care provision.
At HKS Architects, we have been designing a framework for hospital design over the last couple of years that enables a facility to be future ready: to respond to changes in medical processes and technology, shifting demands and increasing use of telemedicine and remote consultations over five, 10 and 20+ year periods.
We have called this framework the ‘FleXX Hospital’ and it challenges the notion that hospitals are fixed and static buildings. Its aim is to ensure a hospital can continue to perform effectively for its full lifespan and, as the needs of medical services shift, to provide for alternative programmes such as additional research and development space and patient hotels.