When social movement Camerados put a teepee in Blackpool Hospital in 2017, staff, patients and visitors – several thousand people in total – began to make connections and look out for each other more than ever. They felt it helped to make the hospital a better place to work, a more supportive place to get better, and a more welcoming place to visit.
The teepee has now made a successful return to Blackpool Hospital, with well over 1000 people visiting in just a few days and countless positive stories of human connection and support already told.
“It’s really amazing that a simple tent can produce these results, of people talking, connecting and feeling more supported in a hospital environment,” said Maff Potts, founder of Camerados. “Hospitals can be pretty stressful places, and are definitely emotive – everyday people get bad news and good news here. We know that NHS staff and resources are stretched to the limit, and that hospitals are full of everyday heroes working really hard to help patients and their families. This is a place where you need support, but it can be hard to find. You won’t expect to see a teepee in a hospital atrium – that’s why we put it there. This time round we also have pop-up connection points and innovations in waiting rooms too – all aimed at giving people space to connect! People are intrigued to find simple but totally unexpected spaces, where they can talk, relax, connect with others, or just simply be.”
Visitors to the new spaces have told stories of finding a moment of calm before stressful appointments; of personal connection; and how these spaces have transformed their time in a healthcare setting. “What a lovely and unexpected place in a hospital,” reads one postcard where visitors are asked to give their feedback. “Changing the experience of a hospital.”
Blackpool Hospital agrees that the effect is powerful: “The positive feedback we received has been inspiring, humbling and off the chart,”, said Andrew Heath, Patient Experience Officer, after the 2017 pilot. “Social connection is intrinsic to person centred care; Camerados and the teepee gave permission for this to happen. We are very good at delivering sterile care efficiently – we forget, though, that by not supporting social connection, often it is just a sticking plaster. The teepee reminds us how to be human. By creating a safe and welcoming place, staff, patients and visitors are able to see beyond their roles and connect with each other. I think we’ve got healthcare all wrong if we can’t support social connections.”
The teepee is part of Camerados’ Human Hospitals project, which the movement has ambitions to spread to other hospitals around the country. “We are thrilled to have secured funding from the Big Lottery Fund to roll this project out to a further five innovator hospitals,” says Potts. “We would love to hear from hospitals who are keen to innovate for the benefit of their patients, staff and visitors.” Camerados are holding two special events for interested parties to experience the teepee and learn more about human hospitals, and the opportunity to partner with the movement.
The events are being held in Blackpool on 19th July and 29th August; visits can also be arranged at other times. “We want other parts of the NHS to experience the power of these simple but effective spaces,” concludes Potts. “You don’t hear the word ‘magic’ associated with health service delivery very often, but there’s no doubt, from the feedback that we’re getting, that this works. It works on a very simple level, but then we often overlook the simple in delivering our services to help people through tough times. This approaches it in a different way, and we’re really excited about the potential of that for the future of our hospitals.”
Details of our NHS events on 19th July and 29th August – bit.ly/humanhospitalsinvite
Watch our animation about the teepee here – bit.ly/teepeeteaser
See a gallery of further postcard feedback here