"East Surrey Hospital building"

About: East Surrey Hospital

(as the patient),

Why does a place that is supposed to heal and care for PEOPLE, look like a

factory making widgets? A hospital building should inspire and uplift. In my opinion ESH is one of the ugliest buildings/complexes that I have ever seen. How did this happen? The most prominent feature seems to be the incinerator tower. I find it depressing. Hospitals need to be inspiring places..I think ESH is badly designed and visiting it is one of the most unpleasant experiences I have have had. How have you allowed this to happen? The doctors are almost always attentive but I think the building is dreadful.

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Responses

Response from Ian Mackenzie, Director of Information and Facilities, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

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Dear Dunno,

Thanks for your interesting comments about the design of East Surrey Hospital. I'm sorry that you feel it is so depressing, but I wouldn't disagree that the general view of the hospital isn't particularly aesthetically pleasing, particularly given its development over time and the different architectural styles employed.

I would however say that I think that lots of the new things we have built - main entrance, new wards, theatres for example- are of a far higher design quality than some of the older parts. Al lot of this is very subjective of course but I would be delighted to discuss this with you, even show you round sometime, if that would be of interest.

Kind regards

Ian

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Update posted by Dunno (the patient)

Well that is a nice surprise. I rarely post anything on the web; usually it is the digital version of the Bermuda Triangle. It is used by most companies, business and even, sadly, public services, to avoid taking any notice of customers, users, or as in this case, citizens. The Internet is a brilliant way of laying off staff and ignoring users while giving them the ilusison of being involved and even of being heard! It is the biggest lie in our daily lives. But you have replied, so go to the top of the class!

I have visited ESH many times over the past years, as a visitor/carer for my mother, as a very occasional out patient, as an in patient and accompanying my wife to an out patient clinic this week.

The whole environment, inside and outside, as well as the layout inside are simply dreadful. I can see that staff and management have tried to do something about this with gardens, paintings, photos and more. But it is the architects' fault! I don'y think there is a solution other than demolition.

I remember when it was being built (1979ish) when I was an in patient in the former Redhill Hospital not far away. That place, Victorian, draughty, monumentally inefficient (so much so that the boilers had no thermostat and in the middle of the night used to boil and the steam used to syphon through the water cysterns in the loos and make an amazing and wonderful noise). But it was a place of healing and one was always uplifted somehow by the whole ambience of the place. It fed through to the staff and the patients also. I spent two weeks there after a successful laminectomy. They were two of the happiest weeks of my life - ever.

I am 72. I am prepared to bet any money that nobody would say that about ESH. It is a health (or disease if you contract a disease there) factory. At Redhill you felt you were in a place of care and healing. In ESH you are in a place designed and run by bean counters.

Tell me I am wrong! I am a fanatical supporter of the NHS. My daughter is a doctor in the NHS. In my last professional job I was offered but refused private health care. I care passionately about what you do. Most of the time you get it right. You saved the life of my 1 year old grandson who nearly died. I admire the way you are surviving despite the Tories' determination to privatise and mess you up. But let us have no more factories pretending to provide health care like ESH! It should be an example to all health planners and architects: don't design a hospital like this!

Response from Ian Mackenzie, Director of Information and Facilities, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

picture of Ian Mackenzie

Dear Dunno,

You asked me to tell you that you're wrong, so I will!

I suspect that we share many of the same views about the NHS, but perhaps I feel more empowered to change things as although I am probably one of the bean counters you refer to but I am passionately committed to trying to improve patient experience at East Surrey Hospital.

I know that we don't always get it right - see sample stories on Patient Opinion - but we very regularly do. Every day we see hundreds, if not thousands of patients and our staff endeavour to do their best for all these patients and I see this reflected in the many and varied commendations we get - whether they are doctors, nurses, cleaners or porters, there is a regular flow of praise for the work that they do to care for about our patients. Yes sometimes they have to do this is an environment that isn't as good as we would wish and that is partly why we are spending a lot of money updating, improving and refurbishing the hospital so that it reflects the high levels of care we wish to give. Clearly this is a huge piece of work and by definition will never end but I have every confidence that we will continue to provide excellent care as the buildings and hospital evolve – even if they never reach the design heights that we may wish for.

If you have any specific example of things we could improve please let me know and my offer to show you round still stands.

Kind regards

Ian

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Response from Paul Simpson, Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

Dear Dunno

Just to add a historical note. The NHS went through a series of reviews of hospital design from 1966 to the late 70's. The previous municipal and voluntary hospitals didn't have the capacity to cope with demand and the policy was to build new hospitals, usually away from town centres. There was then a string of conflicting initiatives to standardise hospital design.

Ultimately we ended up with the "nucleus hospital" design in 1975 (low-rise - no more than 3 floors, modular and so flexible and easy to add to) which I think East Surrey (like Frimley Park and Maidstone) is based on. I note that a key feature of the "nucleus" design was that 300 beds could be built for £6m (at 1975 prices), which was more affordable than other ideas.

As Ian says, he is working his way through the huge task of improving what we have inherited, and the investment now in doing that is significant.

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Response from Ben Mearns, Chief of Medicine, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

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Dear Dunno

You will be pleased to know that we all share your views about improving the hospital to be a pleasant place to be and hopefully over time we can make the improvements needed. However I hope that I can assure you that the hospital internally is much nicer now than it once was.

I hope that you will choose to become a member of the Trust (see website) as this will enable you to take a role in future improvements if you would like.

Kindest regards

Dr Ben Mearns

Clinical Lead for Acute & Elderly Medicine

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