Putting a price on good hospital lighting

Managers of lighting estates in the NHS need to put a value on the quality of light, as well as its upfront cost and energy efficiency, healthcare lighting experts said at LuxLive today.

In the debate on lighting in the NHS this morning, Andrew Bissell of Cundall Light4 said: ‘On PFI projects, the designer might be involved at the start, but becomes remote over time, and the products chosen originally get snubbed for cheaper options. The difficulty is, it’s so hard to quantify the benefits of good lighting. If we could find a way to quantify it, we would see it more often.’

Lighting designer Mary Rushton-Beales said that although we all know instinctively that light affects our health and wellbeing, more research needs to be done on the reasons why and how this can be addressed.

Tony Wiffen of the Royal Marsden NHS Trust (pictured), which has recently spent £200,000 on a lighting upgrade at its hospital in Sutton, said: ‘Getting funding in place is a major issue,’ despite the potential to save large amounts of money through energy-saving upgrades.

Bill Dickson of the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow spoke about how the hospital was able to get interest-free funding from the government for green upgrades. The LED lighting project started with corridor lighting and has now extended to all the hospital’s buildings – inside and out.

Rushton-Beales spoke of seeing ‘terrible, thoughtless LED retrofits’ in hospitals, using glary LED tubes which were left bright regardless of the time of day. ‘It depends if the hospital has a person who really cares about lighting,’ she said.

Panellists agreed on the importance of early design input in healthcare lighting. Tony Wiffen said he always has a lighting designer on site for lighting projects, while Dickson talked about using different levels of light at day and night to keep patients comfortable.

Good solutions can be as simple as ‘turning lights off when they’re not needed,’ said Bissell. Tony Wiffen said: ‘We’ve trialled giving patients control of their own environment – people can control the lights from the same panel that controls the… That worked really well where it was used.’

But Richard Dickinson of the North East London NHS Foundation Trust complained that the criteria for funding lighting upgrades tend to focus only on efficiency – not quality. ‘Salix won’t give me funding to invest in lighting that improves the environment,’ he said.

Bill Dickson encouraged lighting managers to make schemes as efficient as possible in order to secure funding. ‘Look to people like Salix – you can get 100 per cent funding if you’re 100 per cent energy efficient.’ But ultimately, he said, all projects, even those that target big energy savings, are ‘driven by patient care’.

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