Whittington Hospital Pharmacy

United Kingdom
Type of client
Public hospital
24 months
Design support
Design Council
Studio TILT


The Whittington Hospital is one of the UK’s busiest hospitals employing 4,000 staff who provide care for more than 500,000 people across North London.

Chief Pharmacist at the Whittington Hospital, Dr Helen Taylor, knew that collecting a prescription at the hospital was not a pleasant experience for her patients. They entered the pharmacy often feeling unwell and anxious – and these feelings were exacerbated by long waiting times and lack of communication.

Previous efforts to improve the situation, such as user questionnaires, had resulted in poor levels of patient participation and provided no clear insights.

We knew the experience of our pharmacy could be improved, and that it was vital to involve the hospital’s patients in that process.

Dr. Helen Taylor
Chief Pharmacist, Whittington Hospital

How design helped

Dr. Taylor approached the Design Council, who matched her with Design Associate Sean Miller. Drawing on more than 20 years of design experience Sean worked closely with the Whittington Pharmacy to analyse how their service worked and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Sean began by introducing core design concepts to patients, staff, doctors and senior management. From this, larger groups were engaged until a shared definition of the problem was developed. This allowed Sean to establish consensus on the improvement priorities.

Three key areas to address were decided:

  • Improving the patient experience
  • Developing ways to use the space to promote healthcare messages
  • Offsetting expenditure by increasing pharmacy sales

Working with the Whittington team, Sean turned these priorities into a detailed design brief. The Design Council then helped the Whittington pick two design agencies to work with: architectural codesign experts Studio TILT, and service design agency commonground.

The codesign approach meant the designers’ focus was on allowing pharmacy users to collaboratively create a space that would work best for them. This began by establishing a programme of workshops with representatives from patient, staff and management groups. Together they came up with new ideas for how the space could work, then tested and retested ideas, first in model form, then at half scale, and finally at full scale within the pharmacy itself.

Watch Studio TILT’s codesign and prototyping process in action at the Whittington Pharmacy

Watch Studio TILT’s codesign and prototyping process in action at the Whittington Pharmacy

The enthusiasm and commitment of the pharmacy staff were key to the process. At the same time patients provided real-time feedback and responses as they interacted with the new prototype elements in the pharmacy.

The collaborative approach we took to designing the pharmacy was about encouraging those involved to explore the role of objects, furniture and design in their space and its impact on their own day and behaviour. We brought these elements together through workshops and prototyping with patients and staff – our aim was to improve the pharmacy experience for all those who use it.

Oliver Marlow
Creative Director, Studio TILT

The outcome

  • 38 patients and staff took part in codesign workshops

The feedback from the project was overwhelmingly positive, providing new insights and lessons which have changed how the pharmacy space is used.

As a result – the queue of patients at the registration area has been shortened, prescription tracking has been introduced and new areas for confidential consultations have been created.

The work has measurably improved the patient experience, boosting staff morale and increasing sales at the pharmacy. It has also produced a design model that can be applied to other spaces within the hospital.

Having an internal champion who really understood the process, in this case Dr. Helen Taylor, was central to the success of the project. Helen’s ability to navigate internal hospital politics, and convince staff to engage with the codesign process, gave the project credibility and the space to thrive.

The Whittington Hospital have subsequently invited Studio TILT back to work on a further project, this used the same codesign process to help create a major new Ambulatory Care Centre with architects Levitt Bernstein.

The hospital’s management team feels strongly that we should just push work like this through because it has such a good effect on patients.

Dr. Helen Taylor
Chief Pharmacist, Whittington Hospital