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Mental health buildings are not good enough

Despite some good examples, a better balance between safety concerns and the creation of a therapeutic environment can still be found in mental health buildings, according to more than 70 delegates from NHS trusts, architecture consultancies and associated industry bodies who met at Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s elegant Central London HQ.

The importance of early and thorough research with all the relevant user groups was flagged up, as well as the need to knit the mental health buildings into the larger community.

The health sector’s obsession with safety, and minimising risks to patients and staff, inevitably results in buildings that primarily signal this desire to control behaviour.

Andrew Simpson, director of estates and regeneration for SW London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust, said: “We’ve lost confidence in the fundamentals of good design, and replaced it with evidence-based risk-avoidance.”