The GP Waiting Room In Sight

Waiting comes with the territory when seeking and receiving medical attention, and the GP surgery waiting room is a place where this most frequently occurs. Yet GP waiting rooms and the public’s experience of, and in them, is a neglected topic. The little we know indicates that whilst members of the public may arrive anxious, aspects in and of a waiting room, can help calm nerves and ready someone for a productive conversation about their health. Or increase anxiety and loss of agency. 

We engaged the help of a professional photographer, the support of surgery managers who allowed us to photograph twenty-five surgery waiting rooms which we did whilst they were empty thus avoiding any involvement of the public. 

Our analysis of the images found that some waiting rooms gave off an air of calm, affording access to light and nature and had a personal touch lent by, for example, local artwork or up-to-date community news.  But we also found ‘unloved’ waiting rooms.  The key belief that we formed was that the waiting room is much more than a transit zone between home, the outside world and the GP.  

Submitted by:
Gary Clapton

An airy space

The design, lay-out and content of GP Surgery waiting rooms can increase anxiety, reduce agency and work to confirm those who wait there as passive recipients of professional knowledge. Waiting surroundings that mitigate against this have a variety of features like this one.

Photographer: Kinga Koczimska

Information overload

No-one curates the information that is scattered throughout surgeries waiting areas. Some of it is old news or out-of-date, some of it is arranged in piles that no-one disturbs. The effect can be overwhelming.

Photographer: Kinga Koczimska

The calming influence of fishtanks

Surgeries that lend calm to the waiting experience make efforts with features such as natural light, fish tanks, lending libraries and personal touches.

Photographer: Kinga Koczimska

Rolling TV news

In our study we found some waiting areas that had TV news with the sound turned-off (this is more frequently a feature of Hospital Waiting Areas), other GP surgery waiting areas have moved to the provision of screens with rolling information, this too can be an unwelcome distraction when the information is out-of-date, the scroll-speed is too fast or the content lay-out inconsistent.

Photographer: Kinga Koczimska

Shock content of posters

We were struck by the presence of alarming posters with shock-content messages intended to frighten the viewer with the consequences of their actions, e.g. smoking, as in this case, but other instances included the physical results of the misuse of alcohol.

Photographer: Gary Clapton