The flat-pack clinic that could revolutionise healthcare in isolated communities

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The Global Clinic is currently on display at the Wellcome Collection in London

Doctors working in remote parts of the world are often forced to operate out of flimsy tents or repurposed buildings which can be cramped, unhygienic and not fit for purpose.

But now an innovative temporary clinic, which could “revolutionise” healthcare outreach programmes around the world, has been unveiled.

The Global Clinic, designed for the charity Doctors of the World, is a portable plywood structure which offers doctors a clean, safe, soundproof environment to treat patients.

The structures – whose components are slotted together in a similar way to a piece of flat-pack furniture – are easy to transport and can be adapted to suit conditions on the ground.

“Often we’re working with tents in emergency situations, for instance with the refugee crisis which exploded in 2015,” Ellen Waters, director of development at Doctors of the World, told The Telegraph.

“But the type of work we do needs something more private, more secure, more clinical – and of course tents are unhygienic. They can get very muddy and are not a nice environment to be in,” she said.

The innovative design was created by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and engineers BuroHappold Engineering and ChapmanBDSP. It will be on display at the Wellcome Collection until April, as part of an exhibition exploring the relationship between architecture and health.

The lightweight structure, which takes about a day to erect, weighs just 400kg making it easily transportable. The plans can be emailed to a computer anywhere in the world, with the components being manufactured locally.

“We wanted to rethink temporary clinics, to give doctors a clean environment to work in,” said Ivan Harbour, architect and senior partner at Rogers Stirk Harbour.

“Rather than fabricating and exporting a finished product, the design data [plans] can be sent around the world and the cutting can happen in the nearest available place. Communities can then be involved in the assembly and given ownership of the space,” he said.

The prototype on show in London cost £4,000 to manufacture and construct. But Mr Harbour told The Telegraph that the price would be “considerably lower” in other regions, where labour and materials are cheaper.

“These structures would absolutely revolutionise our work,” said Ms Waters. “They would be quick to deploy, and would allow us to provide doctors and patients with a comfortable environment to be in, despite the climate.”

The plywood structure’s outer skin could be adapted according to climate – from a waterproof tarpaulin in cold, damp regions like Eastern Europe, to a breathable mesh in Africa.

Another key element of the design is its soundproofing, enabling doctors to conduct consultations privately.

The clinic on display is the result of two years’ planning and development, and Doctors of the World hope that the design could be rolled out within the next 18 months, following trials in the field and fundraising.

“Now that it’s got to this point and it’s on show, there’s a buzz and excitement around our community,” Pete Aldridge, fundraising manager at Doctors of the World, told The Telegraph.

“There has been a lot of interest in being the first to have one.”

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