Hospitals, doctors’ practices, clinics, dental surgeries – whether NHS or private, no matter the reason for an appointment, every patient visiting any of these establishments will likely have to spend some time sitting in a waiting room.
Whether it’s a large space with a hundred seats or a corridor with only a few, waiting room chairs are an essential feature that need to withstand daily wear and tear and high frequency usage. When sourcing seats for a waiting room in a healthcare environment it’s important to ensure they are fit for purpose, suitable for all types of patients and comfortable to sit on.
With such a vast range of waiting room chairs, beams and benches on the market, we take a look in more detail at beam seating and how it can work alongside more traditional waiting room chairs in healthcare environments.
Hospital Waiting Rooms
The hospital waiting room pictured below has rows of beam seating which is generally suitable for the majority of patients. There are sturdy arms on either end of each row which can aid those who need a little support when sitting and standing. All the beams have free standing feet which means they can be sited anywhere and moved and re-positioned if ever the waiting room needs to be reconfigured.
Each beam has 4 seat places and 2 legs, giving easy access to clean underneath. With a sturdy metal frame, they are robust and hard-wearing whilst the seats and backs are cushioned for comfort and upholstered in anti-microbial vinyl which is easy to clean and aids infection control.
Whilst beam seating is an ideal solution for hospital waiting rooms of all sizes, it is also important to offer other types of seats for those who need additional support or space. The waiting room below also has a selection of chairs suitable for the elderly and infirm.
This waiting room occupies a narrow area and here rows of 3-seat beams take up less floor space than individual chairs leaving a generous walkway for wheelchairs, prams or hospital beds. You can see that a range of other waiting room chairs are positioned at the back of the room.
Beam seating can also incorporate integral tables which can replace any seat position. Tables work well in corners to fill what would otherwise be an empty space, as well as breaking up a long row of seats where beams might be positioned side by side. They also of course serve a functional purpose for patients, for example if they have a drink whilst waiting.
Corridor Waiting Areas
There are many clinics and consulting rooms within hospitals where patients may be required to wait just outside the door. These spaces are often in corridors where space for seating is limited and generous walkways still need to be maintained. There is also a requirement to provide seating where people can take a short rest or for those waiting for friends or relatives who they have accompanied to an appointment.
Pictured below you can see a corridor leading to a hospital entrance where banks of beam seating are periodically positioned. A small sofa also offers an alternative seating solution to those needing extra support.
Hospital corridors and waiting rooms are often very neutral looking spaces but you can use bold coloured upholstery on waiting room chairs and beam seating to brighten things up. With a little imagination you can transform a hospital waiting area into a much more welcoming space as can be seen in the corridors pictured below.
A bold wall colour with beam seats in contrasting colours create a striking impression and a much more welcoming place to wait – the interior designers even won an award for this scheme at a hospital in Bradford.
The beam seats used here are of a premium design with deeply cushioned seats and backs and wooden arms and end panels. The seats also flip-up to give a slim profile when not in use. Flip-up seats are great for areas where space is at a premium and the mechanism can usually be adjusted to your requirements during manufacture so that seats will either automatically tip once a person stands up, or stay in position until they are manually pushed back up into the folded position.
Where flip-up seats are used it is strongly advised that they are floor-fixed for stability. Seats with floor fixings will have a smaller footing so they do not protrude beyond the front of the folded seat. Free standing seats require a larger footing which could be a potential trip hazard if the seats are folded up.
Doctors Surgery Waiting Rooms
Medical centres and doctors’ surgeries are busy places with high footfall where the waiting room chairs are subject to rigorous wear and tear on a daily basis. Floor fixed beam seating helps keep a busy waiting room in order as chairs cannot be moved around. This also reduces cleaning time at the end of the day as seats will always remain in a uniform position and can easily be vacuumed or mopped around with no requirement to re-organise or tidy.
Padded seats with easy-clean vinyl upholstery are a popular choice offering comfort for patients and convenience for facilities managers.
Plastic or wood are alternatives to upholstered seating and whilst these are obviously not as comfortable to sit on for long periods, they may be a preferred option for various different reasons. They are often also deemed more suitable in facilities where fixtures and fittings are at higher risk of vandalism.
Whatever type of waiting room you need to furnish, there is a wide range of seating options on the market and beam seating is a popular solution that can be tailored to your requirements.
Click to read our Guide to Choosing Waiting Room Seating.
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This article was first published on 23rd Apr 2019 and was updated on 2nd Sep 2021