NHS Property Services publish report on creating spaces for community and patient wellbeing

Research has revealed what matters most to ten different communities when accessing and using repurposed NHS community spaces.

The research, commissioned by NHS Property Services (NHSPS) and carried out by The Health Creation Alliance, aims to develop a better understanding of what ten different communities care about most in terms of the kind of spaces that support wellbeing and the processes involved in making them accessible.

With health inequalities remaining a key theme for integrated care systems (ICSs) and nationally, NHSPS is to target over 70 percent of discretionary spend in 2022/2023 towards areas of high deprivation and will work with social prescribing partners to provide key services in the community, creating flexible space to adapt to local needs.

The communities involved in the research include some of those disproportionately affected by health inequalities. They included carers; people with or recovering from drug and alcohol dependency; people with a learning disability; disabled people; women from South Asian origin or heritage; people of Somali origin or heritage; people with experience of mental ill health; and people from rural, Roma or LGBTQ+ communities.

Key findings include that access is a key consideration for many people, from transport to the venue to mobility around the premises; that multi-functional spaces open to many different types of communities, cultures and generations are the most popular; and that many groups benefit from a calm environment with sensory and inclusive spaces, and an affordable community café.

Rhea Horlock, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility for NHSPS, commented: “These findings highlight the importance of appropriate space in creating healthier communities. We have already transformed 69 vacant or under-utilised spaces for use by community groups and the provision of non-clinical services as part of our national social prescribing programme. As we continue to transform our spaces, we will use the findings to make sure all communities can use NHS spaces to create health in ways that work for them.

Merron Simpson, Chief Executive of The Health Creation Alliance, added: “Health and wellbeing is enhanced when people and communities gain control over their lives and environments. Gaining access and a sense of ownership of suitable spaces can be a tremendous boost when those spaces are accessible, welcoming and enable people to come together to do the things they love. We were delighted to partner with NHSPS to bring forward this research, which shows a huge willingness of different types of communities to share spaces with others to support community cohesion and health creation.” 

In addition to the social prescribing programme, NHSPS is to work to integrate recommendations from the research to inform new ways of working with communities to better health and wellbeing.

Read the report in full here.