Designing better mental healthcare facilities

'Designing for Everyone' – a toolkit for primary care

The new 'Designing for Everyone 'toolkit has been developed to help GP practices and health centres improve their buildings and the physical environment for people with learning disabilities, autism, and cognitive impairment.

Jointly developed by the Association for Dementia Studies, University of Worcester, Dimensions, and Assura plc, and designed for use in any health centre, it is believed to be the first integrated resource of its kind to focus specifically on design principles to support people living with dementia, those who are neurodiverse, or have conditions like anxiety.

The co-developers said: “There is growing evidence to indicate that appropriate design for people living with dementia can promote inclusion, independence, and quality of life, but until recently less attention has been given to design for people living with other neurodivergent and neurodegenerative conditions, an estimated 20% of the population. There has also been little research, and few practical tools available, to assess the appropriateness of the primary care environment. Recognising that a visit to a health centre can be a worrying time for patients and carers, Assura plc strives – as far as is practical – to ensure that its premises are both dementia-friendly ,and meet the needs of the increasingly diverse communities they serve.

Designing for Everyone brings together current research and best practice in design for dementia and neurodiversity with reports from national charities, Dimensions, and The Patients Association, confirming the critical importance of the design of the built environment in delivering high-quality, patient-centred primary care services.

The tools can be used by practice managers, premises teams, and patient groups, to better understand how the design and layout of the building works for people with a range of needs. The toolkit’s developers add: “It’s believed that the assessment tools, which include easy-read versions developed with Dimensions, can play a vital part in improving the patient experience, engagement with health services, and reducing inequality of access to care.”

Assessments using the tools are already informing Assura’s refurbishment and new-build programme, and are encouraging those who have learning disabilities or are neurodiverse to gey involved in conversations about improving the environment.

The toolkit is available free to download as part of Dimensions’ suite of training resources for general practice in its #mygpandme  campaign. (


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