Imaginative thinking needed to support NHS, says health minister

14 May 2006

Andy Burnham explains how improving people's working and living environments and supporting new green space need to be part of the overall solution.

The National Health Service must use its massive building programme to act as a 'good corporate' citizen through clever design and imaginative thinking, new health minister, Andy Burnham said today.

Speaking at the launch of Health week, the minister emphasised the effect of the local environment on health costs and outcomes:

'Design quality on both the large and small scale can deliver benefits from reducing the operating costs of a building, to improving staff performance and patient outcomes.'

But it was not enough to concentrate on hospitals or clinics. He said, the NHS had to take seriously its wider impact on a local community, by supporting local economies and promoting sustainable development:

'The NHS as a good corporate citizen can help tackle local unemployment and create new opportunities for people stuck in low-paid, unskilled jobs,' he said. 'It can buy food which helps local suppliers, promotes healthier eating and helps patients recover faster. It can help cut unnecessary journeys to work and its new buildings can be beautiful, energy efficient and sustainable.'

Improving people's working and living environments, and supporting new green space, were important influences on people's health that needed to be part of the overall solution. He admitted that there was a need for better co-operation at local level between health authorities and leisure and other services, to ensure that fewer people needed to go to hospital in the first place.