When patients enter the Oxford Heart Centre's Outpatients and Echocardiography Unit, they are immediately struck by the relaxing and welcoming design of the area.

The unit, at the John Radcliffe Hospital, has comfortable chairs, a spacious layout and brightening light boxes – giving a positive first impression to all who enter.

Oxford Hospitals Charity worked in partnership with Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to create the new space, transforming a deserted former ward into a state-of-the-art hub for cardiac patients, teaching and innovation.

As well as improving the patient environment, the charity also helped to pay for the latest 3D echo scanners – some of the most advanced cardiac imaging technology available.

Gifts through legacies greatly supported the funding of these changes at the Oxford Heart Centre, which serves a patient population of two million.

Dr Saul Myerson, Consultant Cardiologist and Clinical Lead for Cardiac Imaging, explains:

"It is fair to say that this new unit has totally transformed the way we work and the benefits to patients have been huge.

"We see around 30,000 patients a year in clinic, and perform 20,000 scans, and we were hopeful that the new unit would make a big difference, but it is fair to say that the feedback from patients and the effect on staff has surpassed all expectations.

"In the past, patients having an ECG, echo scan and a clinic appointment would have to trek between three different departments spread across the JR. This made appointments lengthy and more stressful, with patients repeatedly getting undressed and dressed between appointments and worrying if one clinic was running late.

"The simple act of bringing all the clinical expertise together in a dedicated space and creating one large central waiting area, alongside a more flexible and thought-through clinical approach, has halved the amount of time our average patient has to spend in hospital. This has a huge impact.

"When patients get here they are so positive about the calm and welcoming environment they are entering – which is good for all concerned.

"Patients I have been seeing for years are so pleased with the changes, and the feedback we are getting is overwhelmingly positive. It is fair to say it has totally changed the patient experience.

"Added to this we have seen a huge improvement in our staff recruitment and retention. Previously – like many Echo teams across the UK – we struggled to recruit staff.

"However, since the new unit was created, we have had a full complement of staff – in fact I think we are the only team in the UK where this is the case. Because of the facilities, we are also able to do more teaching, which also attracts the best people."