Supporting hospital staff & patient care with fabrics

Sergio Prosperino, Global VP of Sales at Ultrafabrics & Daniela Livaccari, Architect at Sonnemann Toon Architects on fabrics for patient care

Sergio Prosperino is the Vice President of Sales, Global Furniture and Healthcare, with Ultrafabrics. His team are responsible for collaborating with their respected customers across the globe by offering solution-based products that are specified for any number of end uses, including healthcare settings.

Hello Sergio, tell us about your role.

“Ultrafabrics’ mission is to redefine luxury performance fabrics through elevated experiences. By combining state-of-the-art technology with artisanal craftsmanship and sustainable innovation, we offer a unique portfolio of fabrics for the healthcare market. Our materials combine performance, comfort, and sustainability without sacrificing any of these areas. By using premium ingredients in combination with our propriety manufacturing process, we engineer highly durable and easy to care for materials,  which can create luxurious, sensorial experiences.

“One of the main fabrics used in the Barts Wellbeing Hubs is our Volar Bio collection, an early entrant in the arena of bio-based, high-performance textiles. Volar Bio is revolutionary in design and style and consists of 29% bio-based content.”

How do they impact commitment to hospital patient care?

“Ultrafabrics was delighted to be selected as a key component of the Barts Wellbeing Hub developed by Sonnemann Toon Architects and NHS Barts Trust. Since the pandemic, staff and volunteer wellbeing has quite rightly been in the spotlight. The end user’s experience is a key driver in developing all our fabrics, which are expertly engineered to outperform in a healthcare environment where a comfortable, safe and sanitary wellness experience is paramount. Also, our products are highly resistant to harsh cleaners often used in healthcare and in support of that, our products carry a five-year warranty and industry-leading hydrolysis. Lastly, colour is also critical in a wellbeing environment and was core to the design concept of the Barts Hub.”

What feedback have you received?

“As an ingredient brand, Ultrafabrics is focused on making the end-product a far superior product. We were thrilled to learn that the Wellbeing Hubs have recently been awarded the ‘Best Public Sector Interior’ at the UK Property Awards. Our customers regularly comment on the soft haptics and inherent comfort of our products, Volar Bio included, and we don’t doubt that this will have impacted the user experience.”

Images by Dave Parker, Ultrafabrics and Sonnemann Toon Architects

Daniela Livaccari is an architect with over 10-years of experience. After studying and working in Italy, she moved to the UK and has been involved in the design and construction of projects in the high-end residential, commercial and urban design sectors.

“Since joining Sonnemann Toon Architects in 2018 my experience is focused mainly on healthcare and commercial architecture and I have particularly enjoyed projects where interior design allows us to achieve space regeneration," Livaccari explains. "Our role as architects is mainly translating the clients’ brief into effective spaces for all users and coordinating the wide range of consultants and other parties involved in the design and realisation of the scheme.”

Tell us more about the wellbeing hubs you're recreating in hospitals.

“In response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic Barts Health NHS Trust recognised a need for a dedicated wellbeing space for staff and, with the support of the Barts Charity, established a hub at each of the five hospitals they operate.

“The brief called for ‘a neutral space, set apart from clinical activity, offering escapism and tranquillity during a particularly stressful period of time. The characteristics of each space varied from site to site, but the services provided included counselling, relaxing treatments and mindfulness activities’.

“The Wellbeing Hubs have been up and running for a year now and serve as a lasting legacy to the commitment to the wellbeing of NHS staff.

“The creation of the Wellbeing Hubs has been made possible with funding from Barts Charity. This was acknowledged in the design brief which asked for a ‘thank you’ plaque and suitable space for remembrance messages, recognising those staff who died due to COVID-19 whilst in service and also staff who have made sacrifices whilst serving the country in the pandemic.

“Wellbeing Hubs vary in size and configuration, therefore zoning was key to achieving the right flow - immediately upon entering, the visitors see a friendly face at the Host base. Beverage-making facilities are located nearby and from there it’s a mere few steps to a social area, bathed in natural light and with plenty of comfortable seats for a bit of rest and relaxation. A selection of natural materials twinned with vibrant upholsteries – with fabrics provided by Ultrafabrics – and accessories is further enhanced by excellent lighting - a hospitality environment, rather than a busy workplace one.

“Those visiting the Wellbeing Hubs may be in search of a sociable interaction, confidential conversation or a quiet moment reading a book or listening to own music - we relished the challenge of creating spaces for a plethora of scenarios within every hub. NHS staff and volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and so it was important to offer a variety of seating items that would be ergonomically designed to provide comfort to all and any visitors. The final selection is a result of many iterations of long lists and short lists as well as a trust-wide showroom exercise, organised by the client, which allowed prospective users to test and feedback on furniture selection. Additionally, upholstery and surfacing samples were tested to ensure they would conform to client’s particular requirements. As a result, the Hubs offer a versatile environment offering something for every visitor.

“To avoid cluttering the space with a plethora of small furniture items we proposed higher-end, made-to-order items, which combine a private seat with a side table or a two-seater with a dining table – perfect for a ‘coffee with a friend’ scenario.

“The aspiration behind the brief was for a non-branded, neutral space, free from visual clutter of notices and posters - therefore the features of the design are very pared-back, any bright artwork is absent. The benefactors of the scheme insisted on low-key acknowledgement only and therefore the only donor recognition is provided as bespoke, natural oak plaque which seems an integral feature of the Host Base background.”

Images by Dave Parker, Ultrafabrics and Sonnemann Toon Architects

How do they impact commitment to hospital patient care?

“NHS staff and volunteers face significant stress daily - providing a salubrious environment for a bit of respite allows the team to step away momentarily from a busy work environment and recharge before returning to their duties. For those seeking a moment of calm, each hub has a quiet area with a nice view out. Additionally, each hub offers a separate room for confidential conversations. 

“The quality of visitor experience was paramount – bespoke joinery is finished to a very good standard, and there is real crockery and a selection of hot drinks. Thanks to the custodian of the space a few weeks after opening, when these photos were taken, the place is full of life, with books, greenery and board games helping everyone feel relaxed. The Hubs are designed to offer flexibility - one morning it can be a quiet mindfulness session, another - the furniture would be pulled away and a yoga class can take place. 

“We hope a visit to the hub helps the staff to feel respected and better equipped to face the daily challenges, supporting them in delivering excellent patient care.”


What feedback have you received?

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – and we were delighted to hear positive comments from the clients and the charity shortly after the hubs went live. Testimonials focused on the enjoyment of the final result but also recognised the collaborative and creative design process, which we found especially rewarding.”


Where do you hope to be with this by 2024?

“We hope that Barts Wellbeing hubs can raise awareness on how dedicated spaces for the wellbeing of all members of staff can contribute positively to the overall healthcare experience. Ideally, we would see similar staff wellbeing spaces in all NHS hospitals.”


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