By Alison Ellis, Marketing Manager
Can Hospital Furniture Really Deliver Great Design At A Price That’s Right?
Great design and affordable hospital furniture may seem like polar opposites but they are not as far removed as you might think. Healthcare furniture suppliers are increasingly combining inspiration from classic designers with the advantages of manufacturing advances to drive up quality while reducing costs.
NHS furniture has a bit of an image problem that’s not entirely unjustified. Tight budgets have required focus to be on function and affordability rather than design and aesthetics. Until recently virtually the only design decision was whether to go for traditional NHS blue or go all out with a splash of purple.
Thankfully things are changing.
Hospitals have recognised the health and recovery benefits of improving the aesthetics of wards and departments while furniture manufacturers are breaking the cycle of only producing furniture that their customers say they want to offer them new pieces that are better for patients and healthcare professionals alike while delivering greater overall value.
So what does that look like?
Delivering greater value
Lower cost manufacturing:
Manufacturing furniture in high volumes using techniques such as plastic injection, 3D printing and high pressured laminated wood coupled with the lower overheads of producing furniture outside of Europe is enabling furniture companies to deliver tough yet stylish furniture to hospitals at lower costs.
The constant challenge of tackling infection risks has heavily influenced the design of furniture, particularly the type of materials that are used. Anti-microbial coverings are now pretty much standard practice while we are also seeing a move away from wooden framed furniture to welded steel – which has fewer joins to bacteria to build up and is also much stronger and longer lasting.
Smarter design doesn’t always mean more or more complicated. Often with hospital furniture there’s a need to make things simpler, easier, and faster.
For example a Sepsis trolley with six clearly labelled drawers ensures a nursing team needs at their fingertips rather than a complicated trolley with lots of add-ons. Or, a reclining chair that requires virtually no effort push-back and doesn’t rely on an electric mechanism that can break more easily.
Improved design and ergonomics
Simplicity also has to be practical. That’s where clever design comes in – from chairs and besides tables with fast release and removable parts of easy cleaning to nesting IV stands that save space when not in use.
Inspired by the greats:
You can see examples of great design in wards and departments throughout the country. While the end result may be more suited to their environment some of the classic lines and styles are mirrored on iconic pieces.
Take a Jean Prove’s armchair, for example. The angled seat, wide arms and steel frame are echoed by bedside and recliner chairs or a Jens Risom chair with its wide comfortable seat, low back and wooden frame is similar to many days chairs seen in departments. Likewise the style of Knoll Bassett’s lounge furniture can be seen in waiting and staff areas.
New design and manufacturing techniques are giving hospital’s greater choice.
They’re no longer restricted to all blue furniture with a bit of purple thrown in – they can choose from hundreds of colour and finish options to compliment the overall décor and make the environment a nicer place to be.
But, with that comes the need for greater guidance. More choice can lead to more confusion and it’s up to the furniture company to make sure each customer supplied with a product that is right for them.
So perhaps it’s time to give our hospital wards and departments a bit more respect. The furniture is not made to be affordable and tough enough to withstand constant use but it’s designed with some of the greats in mind!