3.1. How to achieve a healthy and relaxed environment
First impressions count. Your waiting room can leave a lasting impression. Using simple design principles and techniques can make the waiting room a more relaxed and calm environment, as well as provide educational opportunities for patients.
- Appearance. The appearance of reception is key. You don’t need to remove any existing fittings. Instead, update the area with a simple, cheap façade or panelling.
- Patient comfort. Put yourself in the shoes of your patients. Why not sit for 5–10 minutes in your own waiting room and consider what might need updating. Make sure you ask staff before making any changes.
- Colour. Use colour. Choose colours that are cheerful, natural and inviting. Use colour therapy techniques – warmer tones can be a good choice whilst violet gives a calming effect and red is energising.
- Plants. Place green plants around the room to make the space feel more comfortable.
- Lighting. Improve the lighting. Make sure walkways are clearly lit, particularly if you have patients with sight loss.
- Music. Think about playing music. This can help people relax before seeing the doctor. Request feedback about music preferences via a questionnaire.
- Poems. Think about having poems in the waiting room. Evidence suggests they can help patients relax.
- Reading material. Consider a range of newspapers and magazines. Make a named person within the practice (or Patient Participation Group (PPG)) responsible for checking the condition and relevance of magazines.
- Cleaning. Think about giving the carpet a fresh look or a steam clean.
- Water cooler. Consider installing a water cooler/dispenser with recyclable cups.
- Pushchairs. Have an area for pushchairs.
- Toys. Consider installing a ‘fixed toy’ and remove all individual toys.
- Access. Organise and theme health information to help patients access the information they require.
- Noticeboards. Revamp noticeboards and liaise with patients about what they think is needed.
- Seating. Consider rearranging the seating, and separating the office from the reception area to improve confidentiality.
- TV. Remove clutter and think about using patient information portals or installing flat-panel TVs
Many changes can be done cheaply. Practices should speak to their PCT to see if they qualify for any grants or schemes.