There is a wealth of evidence to suggest that a well-designed hospital environment can improve recovery times and contribute to better outcomes for patients, while providing a more enjoyable workplace for medical staff. As part of a privately funded initiative, Circle is building a number of hospitals throughout the UK which place patients at the centre of a new approach to healthcare. People will be treated irrespective of whether they are paid for by private insurance or through the National Health Service. CircleBath was among the first of these centres to be completed and the practice is designing others in Plymouth and Manchester.
The ambition was to re-cast the hospital as a humane and civilised place for all those who use it. Everyone - whether a surgeon, nurse, or porter - is regarded as a 'partner' in the delivery of health care, with a common goal of promoting patient well-being. CircleBath provides operating theatres, bedrooms, consultation, treatment and recovery spaces, and offers both in-patient and out-patient care. With twenty-eight beds, it is relatively small in scale, which lends it an intimate atmosphere and thus avoids the sense of disorientation often experienced in larger hospitals. Divisions between departments are minimised to ease the stress involved in consultation and treatment for patients and reduce walking distances for staff. A double-height atrium, containing a café, nurses' station and reception point, provides a social focus for patients and staff alike.
The building is dug into its hillside site and its physical profile kept low, with public entry arranged at the higher level and service access on the floor below. Throughout the hospital there is an emphasis on natural light and views: recovery spaces on the lower level are fully glazed, as are the operating theatres, and all look out across a quiet private garden. Balconies line the building's northern and southern edges, oriented to maximise views across the surrounding countryside. Sympathetic landscaping further emphasises the therapeutic natural environment - an overall approach very different from more familiar, institutional hospital surroundings.