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Date: 21 July 2019

Time: 16:10

‘Cool’ artwork unveiled for burns unit

Story posted/last updated: 01 August 2013

Patients at the QEHB are enjoying views of stunning landscapes and beautiful wildlife following completion of a therapeutic arts project, courtesy of the hospital’s charity.

The 15-bed Burns Centre now almost resembles an art gallery after work was specially commissioned by QEHB Charity from three artists.

And, because of the fire trauma likely to have been suffered by the majority of patients, the artists were specifically instructed to use ‘cool’ colours such as blues and greens and reduce the use of ‘hot’ colours like oranges and reds which could result in painful recollections.

The £16,000 project was fully funded by QEHB Charity: half  through its specific burns fund and half from the general fund which has supported the Arts Programme. It was designed to “bring the outside in” for patients in the Burns Centre, many of whom require long stay treatment.

It is part of QEHB’s Arts Programme which aims to help University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust deliver the best in care by enhancing the healthcare environment, recognising the significance of the new hospital and engaging with local communities.

Sue Sharp, Professional Development Sister at QEHB, said: “The new Burns Centre is situated in the most appropriate place in the hospital in terms of critical care and theatre proximity, but the downside is that there is little natural daylight.

“So, we have responded to the views of patients and their relatives by providing this artwork so they can enjoy some kind of view. The whole theme was to bring the outside in so that patients focus on more than a blank wall, particularly in their rooms. It’s just so nice, when you are in a clinical environment, to be able to look at an outside scene, even for just a couple of minutes.”

The project was drawn up in conjunction with Director of Finance Mike Sexton, who chairs the Trust’s Arts Steering Board, Head of Regeneration David Taylor, QEHB Charity Chief Executive Mike Hammond, and Nina Mills from Consort Healthcare. Professional artists were invited to submit their work or ideas to the charity and staff at the hospital, who interviewed the short-listed candidates.

Following the interviews, it was decided to commission artists Dominic Pote, from Nottingham, Kate Green, from Norfolk, and Mark Renn, from Cookley, near Kidderminster, to create artwork for the Burns Centre.

Dominic’s work, which is displayed in the corridors, involved the use of atmospheric photos taken at local beauty spots such as Sandwell Valley and Lickey Hills to create an almost watercolour effect.

Kate painted wildlife scenes which have been installed in patients’ rooms, as well as a light box illustration of a kingfisher behind the main reception desk.

And Mark created a “virtual window” installation, situated next to the nurses’ station, which displays actual photos on a large screen set inside a frame. The pictures, which have been taken by Mark and UHB staff featuring scenes such as landscapes, seascapes and nature, are shown on a continuous rolling loop.

The project was administered by personal assistant Michelle Watts and involved working with resident psychologists Liz Coombes and Sam Williams. The psychologists will assess the impact on staff wellbeing by comparing a questionnaire prior to the artwork being installed with a follow-up due in September.

Added Sue: “From the patient perspective we did an immediate feedback from the patients that were here when Kate’s work was installed. I asked the patients for comments as they had experienced their rooms both with and without pictures. Apart from one exception they all said it had made a massive difference to have something to focus on.

“They said they got lost in the paintings and that they actually helped them to relax and sleep. It is also therapeutic for patients who are here for a long time because they enjoy using them to pass the time, for example, counting things in the pictures such as the trees or spots on a deer. One patient loved her picture of a fox and owl so much that she asked us for a copy when she was being discharged, and Kate was more than happy for her to have one.”

The artists’ remit also included infection control issues, so the artwork has been produced onto metal or laminates to make them easier to clean. “We didn’t want any dust collected or any artwork that couldn’t be washed easily with soap and water,” Sue said.

“All the artists also had to take into consideration that it gets quite hot in here because burns patients have to be kept warm. When you have a bad burn you lose the ability to keep the body warm because of the effects of the burn injury on the skin. The bigger the burn, the more dependent you are on environmental temperature.

“When we gave them the remit I also said that we wanted cooler colours because reds and oranges cause issues for a lot of burns patients, especially in a hot room. Cooler pictures using blues, greens, lemons helps the patient to envisage a cooler environment, especially those who are going through rehabilitation programmes because they get hot from all the energy they are using during exercise.”

Dominic, who was commissioned to make six large pieces for the corridor spaces, said: “There was a general consensus among patients that there was a need to bring some of the outdoors into the ward, especially those patients who were spending a long duration in hospital.

“Patients spoke of wanting to see nature, to see a big horizon, trees, water and the sky so I hope the pieces offer people a chance to escape a little, to dream and feel the beauty of nature.

“Staff pointed out that cooler colours were particularly appropriate for the Burns Centre and so winter was the ideal season to work with. The pieces were made to a scale which would allow people to almost enter into the landscapes as they walk around the ward.”

Plaques accompany each piece with a map showing where the photo was taken, and crediting QEHB Charity for their donation.

Mark, who created a 10ft high projection of a runner for the 2003 World Indoor Athletics Championships in Birmingham, said: “The burns centre at the hospital doesn’t really have any windows looking out so that was the reason for creating this virtual window.”

This is not the first time QEHB Charity has supported Burns Centre patients. Earlier in the year it installed televisions and radios in the centre, meaning long term patients no longer had to pay to watch TV whilst in hospital.

QEHB Charity is the official hospital charity for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and provides equipment, facilities and extra patient comforts over and above that which the NHS provides. None of its work is possible without the support of thousands of fundraisers, donors and patients who take part in events and fundraising activities. To find out more please visit the QEHB Charity website.

Photograph of the wildlife scene artwork on display in the Burns Unit at QEHB

Photograph of Kate Green's wildlife artwork on display in the Burns Unit at QEHB.

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