Woah! Hold onto your trousers!

Kath Evans, NHS England’s Head of Patient Experience, Maternity, Children and Young People, and Dr Alison Tonkin, Head of Higher Education and Access at Stanmore College, extol the importance of creating ‘Űber’ environments to improve experiences of care:

#Hellomynameis Kath Evans and during a recent visit to Bristol Children’s Hospital I bumped into Ben who proudly told me he was six years old.

I joined him and his mum as we travelled up to the 5th floor in the lift. I was heading to a meeting and Ben was off to catch up with the clinical team caring for him.

Ben took on the role of lift operator pressing the number 5 colour coded button and then the fun really began: the voice of Wallace from ‘Wallace and Grommet’ started speaking to us in the lift as we travelled upwards.

The highlight was Wallace saying “Going up..going up! Woah! Hold onto your trousers!” …and Ben, clearly taking this all very seriously indeed, did exactly that.

Ben’s mum and I smiled, trying to suppress our laughter. On arrival at floor 5, Ben skipped out of the lift happily and we followed, going our separate way, endorphins released for all of us.

Health care environments can be high stress environments for the public that use them, and also for the staff who work in them, the result being an overproduction of adrenaline and cortisol impacting on us physiologically, emotionally and on our experiences. Creating healing environments isn’t a ‘nice’ added extra, the evidence continues to grow on the therapeutic benefits of high quality healthcare environments.

This is of course true across the age spectrum; Dr Alison Tonkin brings together global best practice in creating therapeutic environments for and with children, young people and their families across all health care settings from radiology to dentist surgeries in this new resource.

The evidence and case studies inspire and challenge us as we continue to work together to create better health care experiences for children, young people and families. Commissioners, providers, the public, staff, volunteers and philanthropists all have a part to play in improving healthcare environments to create ‘über’ experiences of care.

#Hellomynameis Alison Tonkin. Within my job, I have always promoted the role of the environment but did not fully appreciate its significance as a fundamental aspect of provision and the impact it can have on the overall experience for children, young people, their families and the staff who care for them… until now!

In November 2014, I was asked by Kath to ‘explore the impact environments have on children and young people’s experiences of healthcare’.

We both knew there were plenty of examples of how differing environments can impact both positively and negatively on the overall experience of healthcare being offered. However, these examples needed to be collated together and linked to the evidence base that could support and inform effective practice.

Having undertaken this literature review, using a scoping study approach to maximise the diversity of sources and the amount of literature that could be reviewed, the findings make compelling reading.

Contributions from a variety of individuals and organisations, who have given their time and allowed the use of their resources so generously, has enabled the presentation of the report to illustrate examples of innovative practice, that does not necessarily have to cost a lot of money.

There are relatively simple ways to ‘manipulate’ the environment to reduce stress and anxiety, which can promote positive outcomes and experiences for all concerned. Ultimately, one of the key messages is that children, young people and their families are the ‘one common denominator’ of the whole healthcare package and their views and experiences should be captured and utilised.

Given that children want to participate in the design, delivery and evaluation of the healthcare environments they experience, more needs to be done to empower children to integrate their experiences into all aspects of environmental provision – and best of all, this will benefit all of us.


Kath Evans

Kath Evans, RGN, RSCN, MSc (Nursing), PG Dip (Education), BSc (Hons), PG Dip (Management), Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Accredited Coach, is NHS England’s Experience of Care Lead – Maternity, Infants, Children and Young People.

She is a registered general and children’s nurse and her career has included clinical, educational, managerial and service improvement roles.

She is committed to ensuring the voices of children, young people, families/carers and maternity service users are heard in their care and in the design, delivery and commissioning of services.

Dr Alison Tonkin

Dr Alison Tonkin is Head of Higher Education and Access at Stanmore College.

Follow Alison on Twitter: @TonkinAlison.