Testing and Innovation

Testing and Innovation

In a sector where there have been few formal standards for products to be independently tested and appraised, this work stream aims to create a means of evaluating products so that fair comparisons can be made, validated and verified.

The result will be that the effectiveness of products and their suitability for a project can be quickly assessed through desk research, streamlining the product selection process – saving time and money for both the suppliers and end clients. We believe that this would also permit more time to be spent on designing products and environments for recovery and not just for robustness.

The work stream welcomes input from suppliers and manufacturers of products aimed at the mental healthcare market.

Standards in mental health design

One of the issues faced by those sourcing products for the mental health environment is understanding the product’s suitability. Currently, there is little guidance, and few recognised and agreed standards. Testing that is carried out is often on a project-by-project basis.  Consequently, there has been:

  • An inconsistent approach to both product specification and performance which has had an impact on the health, safety and well-being of patients and staff. This has contributed to increased levels of self-harm and in extreme cases, to loss of life
  • Unnecessary duplication of testing by individual NHS trusts and other organisations leading to wasted financial resources
  • A lack of guidance to inform decisions, balancing capital cost, quality, best value and whole life performance.


The DiMHN viewpoint

We believe that this lack of consensus on guidance and standards is detrimental to healthcare provision and patient safety.  We further believe that nationally agreed standards would help to improve product performance and reduce the need for multiple testing, leading to safer environments and lower costs for all concerned.

Work in progress

In February 2017, we held a workshop with representatives from NHS Trusts, private-sector mental healthcare providers, and window and door manufacturers at the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in Watford.

A brain-storming session allowed us to pinpoint the objectives for future testing frameworks. We divided the 12 delegates into two teams and asked them to consider assessment criteria, the outcomes we’re seeking, and how we will measure success.

The meeting was lively, informative and productive, but it’s only the start of the process. Phase 2 will involve distilling our workshop results into a consultation document, which we’ll be sending out for review and input. We’ll also be undertaking desk-based research on existing standards, exploring the gaps and looking at the best ways to fill them.

Philip Ross, head of the Testing and Innovation work stream, commented, ‘We’ve got a long way to go, but there’s a real enthusiasm for tackling the problem of testing standards. We’d like to encourage any interested parties to have their say now and help us make the changes that will deliver both financial savings and improved safety.’

Join this work stream