Q&A: Trystan Hawkins, CW+ Patient Environment Director

This week, we talk to Trystan Hawkins, CW+ Patient Environment Director. Trystan has a particular interest in the built environment and the impact of excellent design on the patient experience and clinical outcomes. He has led numerous visual arts organisations prior to joining CW+, and reflects on his background, experiences over the years, and the importance of art and design in patient health and wellbeing.

Tell us about your role. How long have you been working with CW+?

I joined CW+ as Patient Environment Director in summer 2013. I lead the art and design programme, and the role makes me responsible for leading the vision for arts and design for CW+. The programme enables us to innovate in order to provide a first-class environment for everyone using our hospitals.

How did you get into this area of work?

I have always worked in the arts. I became interested in the role of arts in healthcare when I was Director of Wysing Arts Centre.  Here, I set up a series of science and art collaborations and one of these involved an artist, Jordon Baseman, collaborating with a heart surgeon. As part of working on this project I spent a lot of time in the hospitals. I noticed the quality of the built environment – acoustics, artwork, colour, lighting etc. and how these were generally quite poor. I began to realise how vital great art and design could be in healthcare settings.

What made you want to work with CW+ and within hospitals more generally?

I have led numerous visual arts organisations, most recently the Royal Academy of Art (Bristol). But being able to design projects that combine great art and design, and have a direct impact on patient experience and clinical outcomes is gives a real sense of achievement. The work at CW+ has a powerful impact on the lives of thousands of people every day.

What is it like leading the art and design programme at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust?

It’s the dream job.  I have an exceptional team at CW+ which enables us to deliver a dynamic programme for the hospital. Working to optimise the hospital environment is immensely rewarding.  The staff at all levels are incredibly open to our projects which often push the boundaries and propose different ways of working.

Can you tell us about a recent favourite project?

Creating a new adult Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. I have spent a number of years working on this important project. A key focus for the design of the unit was how might we improve upon the traditional ICU environment to reduce the numbers of patients developing delirium. For the past two years we have been measuring air quality, light, noise and temperature in our existing ICU and overlaying clinical outcomes on this data. Within the new unit we will continue this monitoring, and we hope to see a reduction in the numbers of patients developing delirium.

Have the creative interventions lead by CW+ always been well received?

We take risks in our projects and increasingly use new technology. This doesn’t always go to plan, when this happens, we learn and rework until it’s right. Environments change frequently in the hospital and it’s important to be agile and respond to changes. Almost all of our projects are long-term which enable artists to gain a detailed insight into the requirements and socialise their ideas before they are realised. We also think about the life span of our creative interventions and decommissioning work which may have become ‘tired’ or no longer relevant for the location in which it is displayed. Patient’s voices are always front and centre in developing our projects.

What kind of impact do you believe the programme has on patients? Why do you believe it’s important to work this way in a hospital environment?

Back in 1999 and 2002, Dr Staricoff conducted a pioneering research programme in Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. This research was the first study to evidence that the integration of performing and visual arts into the healthcare environment, induces psychological, physical and biological outcomes that could have clinical significance.

For most of our projects we continue to build evidence of the impact for patient outcomes; evidence that demonstrates the potential within care delivery, and shows the cost effectiveness of these programmes and enhancements. We work with a group of academic partners on project evaluation, as well as clinical champions within the hospital and experts in my team.