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Call for evidence: Building hospitals in the post-Covid era

Aug 4, 2020


In the context of the government’s plans to build 40 new hospitals, Policy Exchange is launching a call for evidence to inform a major piece of research into how we should build the next generation of hospitals. Drawing upon the experiences of the NHS in responding to Covid-19, we will explore whether the Government’s new building programme could potentially mark the most comprehensive reform of hospital building in England since the 1960s.

Big issues we will be considering include:
  • Is the traditional concept of a generalist hospital still fit for purpose in the 21st century?
  • How can we ensure that future hospital building is pandemic-proof, whilst still representing good value for taxpayer money?
  • In light of new models of care delivered outside of hospital settings during COVID, do we need to rethink how hospitals provide outpatient care?
  • How can high volume, less specialist work be best delivered in the NHS?
  • Should critical bed capacity be maintained at current levels, return to pre-pandemic levels, or be increased further still?
  • What is the future for field hospitals established as part of the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How can new hospital construction be better integrated within the local health and social care system?

The project is also keen to delve into specific elements of hospital design, including:

Building for the future
  • How can new hospital design make the most of advancements in technology and medical devices? For example, what is the role of devices and new technology in helping to monitor patients?
  • What does future demand for NHS services look like, and how can hospitals better serve their populations?
  • How can new hospitals enable more efficient models of inspection for safety and cleanliness?
  • Should future hospitals be built with a higher proportion of single/private rooms? And how can hospital design contribute to better sleep hygiene for in-patients?
  • What provision should new hospitals make for key worker / affordable housing?
Building greener
  • How can green or ‘natural’ space, both inside and outside hospital buildings, help to deliver positive outcomes for patients and staff? What architectural concepts or features could achieve this?
  • How can air quality in hospitals be improved?
  • How can sustainable materials and energy systems be used to ensure the cost-effective and sustainable operation of future hospitals, and reduce the carbon emissions of the NHS estate?
  • Can we reduce the overwhelming dominance of the car as a means of travelling to and from hospitals? Are there opportunities for fitness and health gains from encouraging other modes of transport?
Building more beautiful
  • Hospitals tend to be built in utilitarian styles. Is it possible to combine consideration of all practical and clinical constraints with building beautiful? Could hospitals be beautiful as well as functional buildings?
  • Should local communities be given more say in the external appearance of hospitals?

We invite clinicians, medical staff, patients, policymakers, economists, developers, planners, builders, architects and other interested groups to respond to this call for evidence. Submissions are welcome both from institutions and private individuals, and from the UK and internationally. Submissions should be in Word or PDF format and no longer than 2,000 words, addressing any or all of the above questions. We also welcome visual submissions from architects, planners and designers, which should be submitted as JPEGs. Please ensure you own the copyright for such images or have written permission to use them. Any visual content submitted may be used by Policy Exchange in our own publications as part of this project, or media coverage of it, and will be credited appropriately to you or the copyright owner. Submissions will be treated confidentially.

Submissions should be sent to, by no later than 5pm on Friday 18th September 2020.

We are delivering on our commitment of building 40 new hospitals, and they must be designed for the future. They must help us deliver more integrated care, more person-centred care, and with all the benefits that we know well-designed attractive hospitals bring.

I warmly welcome this call for evidence from Policy Exchange on how to make this happen and look forward to the recommendations from the review.

Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

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