Designing Tomorrow’s Emergency Department

20th November 2018
Designing Tomorrow’s Emergency Department

Simon Boundy recently found himself in a room in Brussels, surrounded by several clinically-minded experts from around the world. Was he trying to negotiate his way out of a tight spot? Far from it! Together, they were Designing Tomorrow’s Emergency Department.

This collaborative course, run by IEDLI, focused on best practice, innovation and lessons learned, but was not just limited to European standards and experiences. Simon was joined by Emergency Department (ED) clinicians from Europe, America, the Middle East and Australia.

Over two days, Simon et al. looked at various topics surrounding ED design; from ‘reinvent the rules’ conceptual layouts, down to the qualities and practicalities of staff work spaces and workstations.

After much debate and knowledge sharing, designers and clinicians worked together to develop an exemplar Emergency Department with key themes emerging:

  • The layout should be flexible supporting efficient staffing during periods of high and low activity,
  • The importance of effective triage and the benefits of early assessment by an experienced clinician, it was clear however that the implementation of this would vary to suit the specific location,
  • The importance of effective communication, in the frenetic environment of an emergency department visual connection is critical together with connected spaces for confidential discussion,
  • The value to staff working in these highly stressed environments of a connection to the outside and daylighting
  • Flexibility is key, complex projects such as emergency departments take many years to commission and build whereas emergency medicine practice changes rapidly, the building should be flexible enough to respond to future change.

We demonstrated in our design of the emergency department at Morriston Hospital that these requirements can be met even in complex reconfiguration projects. We are currently developing these ideas further with our work at Derriford Hospital and Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.

Reflecting on the experience, Simon said:

I learned so much engaging with and listening to clinical leaders from around the world. We realised that everyone is facing similar challenges. It was really exciting to see how enthusiastic the clinical teams were to engage with design, and inspiring to then work together to develop ways of doing things better.