"When people come to us they need to feel like everything around them is helping them to get better and we also need our staff to be working in an environment that is fit for purpose, functional and modern."
Ginni Bilham is an Estates Project Manager, specialising in interior design.
Being away from your family and those you love in hospital can be distressing. How do we make sure our wards and spaces meet the needs of our patients and staff?
'I work throughout the Trust on projects that need an interior design element. I have worked on children's wards, working age adult wards and Integrated wards. Each project comes with a specific brief and I really enjoy tailoring the design to meet the needs of the individual patient group to ensure that the ward is fit for purpose and is most of all holistic in nature.
For the project in the children's ward the children were involved from the very beginning choosing colours and furniture - it was a lot of fun and interesting for me to see what it was they needed from their environment. When the project was finished parents and staff appreciated it was friendly and homely, somewhere their child would feel comfortable and happy during a difficult time.
I have recently worked on the relocation of Brunswick Ward, our specialist dementia unit. I attended a course at the University of Sterling to understand dementia from a design point of view. Patients with dementia live in a very different sensory world so it is important to create an environment that meets their needs and gives them the best patient experience.
Creating a healing environment for patients can vastly improve patient experience and it is understood that when wards and hospital buildings are warm, welcoming and fit for purpose patients experience better recovery outcomes.
It is also important that our staff are working in an environment that is functional and modern. I really enjoy the part of my role that enables me to transform buildings from tired, bland spaces to appropriate and therapeutic ones.
Before working in the NHS design for me was a hobby, something I enjoyed. I never saw my passion for design as anything more than a personal passion. However, my life circumstances changed and I found myself needing to work for the first time. I enrolled on a back to work course and trained as an administrator. I was sent to Sussex Partnership Trust for some experience as a receptionist. This was 20 years ago this year and I have never left!
From my role as a receptionist I moved into the Estates Office where my passion and flair for design was recognised. I was given the opportunity to use my skills and I am very grateful for that. My life had changed quite a lot but I found that using my enthusiasm for design to help patients have a really positive experience is very fulfilling. It is fantastic to be able to improve someone's day and even recovery journey by creating a carefully considered environment.
I enjoy working for the NHS. It is a very free way of working, not at all restrictive and I can enjoy managing my own time to meet the demands of my projects. My work is very deadline centric so it can also be very stressful but the end results are very rewarding. There is, of course, also the bonus of having a great holiday allowance!
Through this role I had the opportunity to be a judge at the Design in Mental Health Conference this is where architects and designers come together to speak about their design work in mental health environments. It is an opportunity to share innovative ideas and showcase design work that is having a real and positive impact on patients. I had the privilege of judging the best designs for Mental Health in the country and the added bonus of being able to learn from this and bring new thinking back to Sussex Partnership Trust.
This might not be where I imagined my life taking me but I am thankful to be in a job where I have great support from my management, in a role I really enjoy and feel passionate about. I even met my husband, through working on a project - another thing I could never have predicted!