How partnerships can drive a placemaking legacy for healthcare

The built environment has a clear social responsibility to assist communities in the areas in which we work. So, whether we are regenerating forgotten parts of a city or building new social infrastructure, on every project and programme we must provide opportunities that enable local people to thrive. Anchor institutions like hospitals and healthcare providers play a pivotal part in making that happen. But how can effective partnerships help maximise the opportunities offered by these developments?

Healthcare sites, local authorities, universities and significant local businesses are all examples of important anchor institutions, with hospitals in particular playing a unique role in keeping a population healthy, while providing a service to those who need them.

They have considerable influence over the health, wellbeing, and prosperity of a local economy, with both direct and indirect influence over the communities they are part of. This includes providing direct employment within the organisation, building skillsets that might otherwise be lacking in the region, as well as supporting local businesses through indirect spending.

Partnerships offer effective but underutilised opportunities to maximise this influence. Whether with local authorities, the voluntary sector, local businesses, Integrated Care Boards in the UK, education institutions or local people and community groups, they can help increase the health and wellbeing of a community while building resilience for healthcare organisations against future challenges. But what does that mean in practice?

Making creative use of owned and shared assets

Partnerships give healthcare estate owners the opportunity to rethink how they can make best use of their physical assets or take advantage of a wider set of buildings. This can unlock hidden opportunities.

For instance, collaborating with local councils opens the door to renting out vacant shopping centre spaces for drop-in or outpatient clinics. This can ease pressures on healthcare assets, enabling further creative usages to better assist local needs.

School estates also offer interesting opportunities for evening sessions for patients requiring long term condition advice or support groups. Working with the education authority could also lead to working in partnership to help run sessions collaboratively.

Going the other way, hospitals offer great spaces to support local initiatives. Whether through the arts including dance, arts, exercise classes, live music benefitting patients, staff, the community providers themselves whilst activating the spaces, which historically you may have just walked through or considered wasted, or impersonal space, there are numerous opportunities to build support and showcase a broader value for local people beyond core services alone.

Support local industry through decarbonisation

By nature, anchor institutions are large in scale. They use a lot of energy to function effectively, generate waste, while also necessitate the generation of vehicle emissions through deliveries and general operation. There is also the indirect impact caused by staff travel as well as construction of new or refurbishing existing facilities.

They therefore have a significant impact on the local environment. This needs to change.

Looking at the UK in particular, the NHS has set out a road map for reducing the impact on both public health and the environment. While trusts are at varying stages in working on delivering net zero carbon solutions, partnerships can again play a pivotal role in addressing this challenge.

There are opportunities to collaborate with the built environment sector and their supply chains to pool resources where appropriate and deliver real innovation. Through standardising hospital design and construction, as well making best use of modern methods of construction, healthcare organisations can not only reduce energy use but build healthier, more efficient spaces for our future generations.

Create lasting legacies through partnering with local interest groups

Alongside partnering with other local anchor institutions and industry, working with local community groups can create further value for healthcare organisations across the world.

There are opportunities to create a real sense of place at a hospital or health facility as communities establish new ways of engaging with them. By bringing local people into a discussion about how a hospital should operate, how they want to be treated and how spaces can be used in new and creative ways, communities can take more ownership and pride over their healthcare facilities thus supporting the improvement the neighbourhood’s wellbeing and health.

In addition, health professionals are then also exposed to potentially innovative thinking that could improve their regular operations. They could challenge how people and goods travel around an institution, how services are delivered, how spaces are best used, how active movement could be encouraged as part of site and community design, alongside a wealth of other benefits. The opportunity to create lasting legacies through these relationships should not be overlooked.

Shaping places together

Partnerships therefore offer immense value to healthcare organisations in driving placeshaping, improved operations and a sense of ownership across a community. Anchor institutions have a chance to be a real catalyst for change, driving towards net zero, improving health and wellbeing, supporting the achievement of government targets while supporting a community from the ground up. Hospitals and healthcare organisations are well positioned to reap the rewards from this approach.