Violence in our A&Es costs the NHS at least £69m a year in staff absences alone, with as many as 59,000 physical assaults on staff a year.  The most recent NHS staff survey showed that more than 15% of NHS employees have experienced violence from patients, their relatives or the public in the last 12 months – the highest figure for 5 years

One response to this level of violence could have been to install glass screens and security guards in A&E departments.  But to understand the major areas of frustration and potential triggers of violence and aggression, we commissioned designers PearsonLloyd to approach the issue from a more nuanced standpoint. PearsonLloyd spent time listening to a diverse range of people including patients and clinicians working in the department. 

By using the Double Diamond approach, it became clear that the real issue was the lack of information about what was going on.  The result was A Better A&E, a programme of on-site signage that clearly and simply guides patients through their time in A&E. In the three trial hospitals, aggressive patient behaviour was reduced by 50%, demonstrating that cost-effective design solutions, informed by a deep understanding of human behaviour, can have a real, lived impact on patient experience.  Since the trial, 16 NHS Trusts have installed the solution and enquiries on how to implement the system in the UK and other countries are growing.

This design principle of understanding people’s experiences, empathising with their situation and collaborating with those affected, means this work is easily translatable to other frontline public services, such as customs, post offices or any other scenario where large groups of people are interacting with service providers and can experience delays or frustrations that can quickly spiral into negative situations.                

To find out more about how we’re making our A&Es safer places to work and easier to navigate for patients; or how we could help you re-think your challenges, identifying the opportunities for innovation in your organisation, please get in touch with us.  If you are interested in implementing A Better A&E system in an NHS Trust visit  abetteraande.com for more information.

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