Clinical Connections  –  Autumn 2021

Jo Payne, Operational Interface Manager for the Hawkshead development

A growing body of evidence indicates that there are clear links between patient health and wellbeing and the physical characteristics of hospitals. Through effective design, the built environment of healthcare facilities can have a direct impact on patient outcomes, including reducing levels of anxiety and stress, shortening recovery periods and increasing social interaction.

Beneficial effects have also been observed for staff, including improved morale, job satisfaction and wellbeing, as well as increased productivity and lower rates of absence.

While these studies primarily relate to the fields of human medicine, there are clear parallels to veterinary settings, where staff happiness and the client experience are so closely intertwined.
While not specific to RVC campuses, ageing buildings, outdated design, poor repair and a piecemeal approach to on‐site development can all contribute to sub-optimal outcomes for both staff and clients.

Patient surveys regularly highlight the sort of amenities that people value: sunlight, bright decoration, displays of art and a welcoming café; personal space – somewhere they can be alone – all the better if there is somewhere to walk in the fresh air, somewhere with a view. Accessibility is also vital, so that all spaces can be enjoyed equally by those with impaired mobility.

At Hawkshead, the RVC has embarked on the largest and most ambitious single capital development the College has ever undertaken. Due for completion in mid-2022, the project will deliver improved and expanded teaching and research facilities, as well as providing better office accommodation for College staff.

The project will also provide a range of new staff social spaces and will improve both the staff and visitor experience through better wayfinding and building connectivity, and enhanced planting and landscaping within the College grounds.

The evolving Hawkshead Campus from a drone

From the outset, the redevelopment has been about far more than just improving our offices and laboratories. At every stage of planning, we have sought to make our campus more cohesive, to improve accessibility, to increase social and collaborative interaction, and to derive the maximum benefit from the wonderful green spaces that surround us.

With support from our architects, all work has been guided by the applicable British Standard, “Design of an accessible and inclusive built environment” and plans were independently assessed and approved by the local Design Review Panel, with reference to the National Planning Policy Framework. The NPPF specifically obliges panels to assess whether designs are “safe, inclusive and accessible” and “promote health and wellbeing”.

Key benefits of the campus development will include:   

  • An enhanced central green space with wild flower and native tree planting, leading to an accessible and pet-friendly “Garden walk”.
  • A stylish new plaza adjacent to the canteen, for staff and clients to enjoy a drink or some food in the fresh air.
  • Alignment of key pedestrian connections, with step-free access and improved campus wayfinding.
  • Updated displays of RVC art and artefacts providing points of interest and education around a bright and spacious central atrium.
  • Upgraded site safety and security, including improvements to exterior lighting, CCTV and access controls.

For College staff, there will also be:

  • A relaxing staff lounge and garden room, centrally located to encourage interaction between colleagues from different departments.
  • Newly refurbished office accommodation with a diverse range of meeting and break-out spaces.
  • A comfortable and well-lit waiting area for the shuttle bus, with adjacent seating.
  • The last couple of years have made for a challenging construction environment and we still have a little way to go before the plans all become reality, but we are confident that the improvements we are making and will continue to make will benefit our community and enhance our reputation for years to come.

For further information, you can contact Jo Payne via

Further reading    

Work and wellbeing in the NHS: why staff health matters to patient care

Patient‐friendly hospital environments: exploring the patients’ perspective, Health Expect. 2004 Mar; 7(1): 61–73.

Green Space for Health,

Top of page