Gory posters in GP waiting rooms 'not good for patients'

Leaflet overload Image copyright Kinga Kocimska/Edinburgh University
Image caption The study found that too many leaflets in the waiting room did not make GP surgeries calm or inviting

"Unloved" GP waiting rooms which are covered in leaflets and tatty magazines can increase patients' anxiety, according to an Edinburgh study.

Gruesome imagery on posters, for example blackened lungs, were also highlighted in the report.

Researchers believe it is the first time anyone has examined the look and feel of GPs' surgeries in the UK.

The study was carried out by the University of Edinburgh in collaboration with NHS Lothian.

The researchers found many waiting rooms were characterised by:

  • Rolling TV news or "muzak"
  • too many leaflets and posters - 224 in one surgery
  • tatty, out-of-date celebrity and scandal magazines - one copy was possibly a health risk
  • lists of dos and don'ts on the walls, lending an unwelcome tone
Image copyright Kinga Kocimska/Edinburgh University
Image caption Rolling TV news is also a turn-off, according to the researchers

Lead author Gary Clapton, a lecturer in the University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Science, said there were simple ways waiting rooms could be made more calm and inviting.

"If you take care of the waiting room, you know the doctor is going to take care of you," he said.

"Not everybody can provide a fish tank but we know from the literature that abstract paintings make people feel worse. Pictures of nature are good, and so is an outlook onto a garden area if possible.

"The personal touch seems to work well - when receptionists had done their best to make it feel homely."

Image copyright Kinga Kocimska/Edinburgh University
Image caption Patients prefer an airy space and pleasant surroundings

Among the 20 surgeries visited, Mr Clapton did find examples of good practice. Some surgeries had small lending libraries of books and others had poetry on the wall.

Making the surgery feel like part of the community also worked well, for example, having information about tea-dances or sponsored walks.

There is a lot of evidence that pleasant surroundings speed up recovery times, but most of the research has focused on hospital care. So, while it is common to see artworks and airy spaces in modern hospitals, little is known about the amount of effort GPs are putting into their surroundings.

Image copyright Kinga Kocimska/Edinburgh University
Image caption Fish tanks can also have a calming influence, researchers believe

The authors of the study said they had received inquiries from several doctors since the research was published in this month's British Journal of General Practice.

"We're also thinking about organising a meeting of publicity people from all the charities who send in leaflets for display in surgeries," said Mr Clapton.

"They must spend a fortune on them, but it's becoming a redundant medium. Everyone waiting in the surgery is looking at their smartphone.

"There must be a way of getting these messages across better, and in a less intimidating way."

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