Healthy intervention

Hospitals and care homes in the UK are under tremendous strain, but architects and specifiers can help improve public health by incorporating high-quality drinking water delivery systems in designs, says Kevin Winchester of BRITA Vivreau.

The task of hydrating hospital patients or residents in a care home is vital. When it comes to the drinking water system, the emphasis has to be on hygiene – and the consequences of ignoring it can be dire for vulnerable users.

Good hydration has been shown to have an impressive impact on health and wellbe- ing but it must be the correct type of hydration – helping clients to meet their duty of care.

Design process

Incorporating drinking water systems into the design process for healthcare buildings is crucial. Architects should start with a rigorous evaluation of the client’s needs, the overall design of facility and the nature of the care itself. Is it critical care? How do they manage patient care, and what is their sanitisation regime?

The key question is what’s the best option for the patient? Cancer patients are far more susceptible to airborne and waterborne germs and contaminants that pose a greater risk to health. While in non- critical environments, another type of system which prioritises a more person- centred approach over just hygiene could be more appropriate.

The design process should allow for both space and supply. Space is at a premium in hospitals – the risk of patients or nurses bumping into poorly located drinking water systems is a nightmare scenario, one which contravenes duty of care.

The key question is, where are the key areas that water needs to be supplied to? By considering this in the design process, clients are far better placed to ensure patients and residents are at the heart of their plans.

Product options

For chilled still water there is the standard point-of-use water dispenser or bottled water cooler, the kind you see in standard office buildings, but for healthcare environ- ments it’s often best to consider self-sanitising equipment designed for hygienically sensitive areas.

In care environments, these systems are tailor-made to combat airborne and waterborne hazards.

It’s worth considering a filtered water system that constantly self-cleans the nozzle, killing bacteria, and has a filter preventing bacteria from travelling. These systems are designed to heat up the nozzle to 110°C every 90 minutes and help stop bacteria moving up the pipework into the cooler itself. Coupled with an additional 0.2 micron filter before it goes through the sanitised nozzle area and a 0.5 micron filter for the pipework coming into the back of the machine from the mains-fed water – as a result little or no bacteria travels either way.

Another aspect of the decision-making process is whether to install a centralised system. This eliminates the need to use individual drinking water dispensers at several locations in the building. As well as taking up far less space, these systems can be up to 55 per cent more energy efficient than individual dispenser units.

When it comes to boiling hot water, think about the safety, freshness and speed the water is dispensed at. A lot of healthcare providers use kettles, where time and water is wasted waiting for a full kettle to boil, or large drinking water boilers, where water loses freshness over time.

Instead, architects and specifiers should look at choosing a system which offers mains-fed, purified instant boiling hot water from one single tap with a touch sensor control, and zero splash.

Person-centred

Many healthcare providers are constantly striving to be more person-centred, empowering residents and visiting family and friends.

As Jewish Care group’s site facilities manager Lindsay Forrest says: “With this system we are confident it is safe for residents as there is a safety mechanism in place for the boiling hot water where you have to touch the button twice and hold, reducing the chances of burning themselves on a hot kettle.”

Five minutes can be a long time in a care home and having access to instant chilled, filtered water or instant boiling water can save the extra time waiting around for a kettle to boil. Forrest comments: “It’s five extra minutes a relative can spend with their mum or dad. For example, a person with dementia who is still relatively independent may want a cup of tea but after a few minutes may forget why they’ve boiled the kettle. With this system, they can have a hot drink instantly.”

Architects’ role

There are clear advantages and disadvantages that architects and specifiers should discuss with their clients. Is hygiene the sole concern or is being person-centred

Space is at a premium in hospitals – the risk of patients or nurses bumping into poorly located drinking water systems is a nightmare scenario, contravening duty of care

also important? Is a system which may be more expensive in the short-term going to provide long-term value?

When taking all these factors into account, architects and specifiers are urged to seek innovations which support patient care and not to simply go with the norm.

They have a crucial role to play in educating the client and ensuring the best option for the patients and residents is chosen. Healthcare environments will be all the better for it.

Kevin Winchester is head of business development for BRITA Vivreau

It’s worth considering taps with self-cleaning nozzles
designed to kill off bacteria