Stephen Crampton-Hayward is Treasurer and Vice-Chair of Paintings in Hospitals. Here Stephen recounts his early memories of clinical spaces and the impact of an inconsiderate patient environment…

Almost all my earliest childhood memories involve hospitals and doctors waiting rooms. Having diseased bone marrow (osteomyelitis) from three weeks old that recurred for the first three years of my life, requiring seven operations to remove the dead bone from my right tibia, and then wearing callipers for the next three years to force the bones to regrow straight, was bound to make a lasting impression.

I do remember pain, but it is cushioned by memories of the great kindness of the paediatric staff. I regarded the hospital as my other home, and there is a gentle glow around many of those memories. Children are remarkably resilient and adaptable.

No, the memory that gave me recurring nightmares as I grew older was not directly related to pain or the clinical efficiency of hospitals. It was the enormous stuffed polar bear that stood reared up and snarling, presumably capturing the moment it was shot by my Orthopaedic surgeon, who had it mounted right at the entrance to his consulting rooms in a dark and creaking old house.

Polar bear

For me as a small boy, having to pass that awful beast every time I went to be poked and prodded and measured and strapped into those steel and leather leg braces, felt like Indiana Jones entering the Temple of Doom. And then to sit in the hushed, gloomy oak-panelled waiting room with the sinister hum from a tank of tropical fish, glowing dimly blue, knowing there was a monster lurking just around the corner, is seared on my memory.

Being ill and in pain is horrible enough, adult or child; there is no call to make it worse by adding a thoughtless environment.

Having first-hand experience of how not to do it, I am now proudly a trustee of Paintings in Hospitals whose mission is to get it right. Our Art & Younger People programme was developed in consultation with young people in a collaborative project with Tate Collective, Tate's youth forum. Our panel of young people helped develop collecting guidelines and even commissioned new artworks by UK-born, NYC-based artist Jon Burgerman. Collaborating with the Tate Collective meant that young people were at the heart of the decision-making process from the start.

Jon Burgerman, Untitled (Orange), 2010. Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.

As an adult, I know that art makes my experience of life better and I’m sure that as a child a bright consulting room hung with artworks like the ones in this programme would have calmed my fears and eased my anxieties and allowed me to gather more pleasant early memories.

Paintings in Hospitals has been aiding the wellbeing of patients and their carers in this subtle but important way for 60 years and with all our support will continue to expand its reach into health and social care environments and to increase our understanding of the impact that art can have on our mental and physical health.

Find out more about our art for health and social care spaces…

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Stephen Crampton-Hayward is Treasurer and Vice-Chair of Paintings in Hospitals. He is Director of Finance and Corporate Services for WorldSkills UK. Prior to this, he was Managing Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, having worked primarily in arts charities throughout his 20-year career, including the Serpentine Gallery, the Lyric Theatre Hammersmith and the Central School of Ballet. Stephen is Acting Chair of Discover Story Centre in East London.