A design for healing
Tuesday 28 June, 2011
The night his wife was taken seriously ill is one that Bridgnorth architect Vic Johnson will never forget. But his lasting memories could become a vision for the future, as Nina Davies discovers….
A Bridgnorth architect has unveiled a revolutionary project to bring therapy, both real and retail, to hospitals after his own traumatic experience visiting his seriously ill wife. Mother-of-four Amanda Johnson, a clinical nurse herself, was at home one night when she suffered a life-threatening brain haemorrhage. The 44-year-old was rushed to hospital by her husband Vic, who heads up Johnson Design Limited, after he diagnosed her condition on the internet.
Amanda, who suffered a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage, underwent a series of procedures including a lumbar puncture to reduce pressure in her brain as part of her treatment. Wandering the corridors day and night, Vic says he was hugely depressed by the surroundings and wanted to make a difference to the lives of patients and their families.
“It is amazing how many people have a fear of hospitals,” said Vic. “And it is not always associated with being in pain. “Hospitals can be soulless places, especially at night. Although staff do a tremendous job with the patients, a huge percentage of visitors are not catered for at all.”… “I realised then that a lot of things could be done to create a more normal environment for patients and their friends and family.”
Eventually with Amanda starting to make a slow but steady recovery, it was not long before
Vic got to put his ideas into techno-colour. It was after being asked to produce plans to revamp the Royal Free Hospital in London that he got to draw up a blueprint of his innovative new designs. Months later and work is now under way to make that vision a reality with phase one of a threepart scheme almost complete at a cost of £400,000. It houses well-known shop brands including Boots, Greggs, M&S Simply Food, The Body Shop, Upper Crust, clothes and jewellery shops to name but a few. The result is a striking glimpse of how Britain’s hospitals could soon become a mix of vital medical services and High Street retail outlets.
“My natural response was to create an environment that replicated the real world. Studies show that patients recover quicker if they feel part of everyday life which is why I’ve brought the High Street and the major brands directly to them,” he said.
Along with major chains taking up residence, Vic has also turned his attentions to a discharge suite which will help free up beds on the ward. “When people leave hospital it can often take a day to be discharged – a day spent in a bed which could be used by someone else.
“What we have done is to create an area where patients can go which prepares them for the outside world, not only freeing up beds but helping people make a smooth transition between hospital life and home life,” he added. The 47-year-old boss is now planning to pitch his ideas to NHS Trusts in Shropshire and the West Midlands to show them the benefits of such a scheme.
Having spent just over two weeks visiting Amanda, in Telford and Coventry hospitals, Vic says it was an experience he will never forget. “I couldn’t fault the high dependency unit. The staff there are so much more than just nurses, incredible people. “But on the medical wards at times it felt like we were in the Third World, left on your own and with a feeling of not being in control of what was happening. “I realised then that a lot of things could be done to create a more normal environment for patients and their friends and family.” And no one believes in this philosophy more than his wife Amanda, who after three months of recovery, is now back at work as a practice nurse at Claverley. She says: “Vic had a lot of time to think while I was laid up and he felt he could make a real difference. I think he is right.”