Behind the budget: Healthcare construction boost

New hospital developments to go ahead, plus increased funding for technology adoption across the NHS

The Government has announced that the NHS will receive an extra £10billion in real terms every year by 2020 to fund more operations and outpatient appointments, improved diagnostics, and better access to GP and hospital services.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement also revealed that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive extra cash for vital infrastructure projects, and more than £500m will be spent building new state-of-the-art hospitals in Cambridge, Brighton, and Sandwell.

A pipeline is no good, if it is just a pipe dream. Real opportunities that are seen through to completion are what is needed for investment

Revealed last week, the Budget outlined an extra £4 trillion in spending over the next five years, with much of this invested in the NHS, defence and housing.

Chancellor, George Osborne, said the extra money for the NHS would fund 800,000 more operations and treatments, 5.5 million more outpatient appointments, two million more diagnostic tests, improved access to GP services in the evenings and at the weekend, and seven-day access to hospital services by 2020.

He also announced that, by 2020, health and social care will be integrated across England, joining up services between social care providers and hospitals, and local authorities will be able to add 2% on council tax bills to pay towards social care in their areas.

And people with suspected cancer will be diagnosed, or given the all clear, within 28 days of being referred by a GP, helping to save 11,000 lives a year.

While finances will still be tough, and NHS trusts will be expected to continue helping the Government to reduce its deficit, the Budget has been widely welcomed, particularly by the construction sector.

Richard Threlfall, KPMG’s head of infrastructure building and construction, told BBH : “Today's Spending Review is good news for infrastructure. The Government has again prioritised capital spending.

“However, this is tempered by the 37% cut in the Department for Transport’s operating budget, which surely raises concerns over the Department's capacity to drive forward its substantial pipeline of projects.

All in all, not a bad Autumn Statement for infrastructure, as increased capital expenditure and devolved powers will be key to driving forward infrastructure projects in the UK

“There also remains a huge inconsistency between the slick sound bite of devolution revolution and the reality that it is central Government that is still signing the big cheques and deciding which schemes it wants to support.

“Only when the Government transfers material control over tax revenue from the Treasury to the regions will we see real devolution of power and the ability of the UK's major cities to plan and deliver long-term programmes of infrastructure investment.”

Kirsty Duane, partner and head of infrastructure at Nabarro, added: “As mentioned in the Chancellor’s speech, the UK has topped our latest Infrastructure Index as the most-attractive place to invest globally. While this is positive news for the infrastructure sector, we still need opportunities to invest, otherwise the UK could lose out to countries like the US and Canada, which are closing the gap on the UK’s lead in the Index.

“A pipeline is no good, if it is just a pipe dream. Real opportunities that are seen through to completion are what is needed for investment.

“This will be helped by George Osborne’s reinforcement of the plans for devolution and regional powers, as our Infrastructure Index reveals the increasingly important role that devolved government plays. Four of out of the five top-ranked countries in the Index have devolved decision-making powers and regional powers are crucial to the successful implementation of infrastructure development. Having elected mayors who have the ability to raise funds for specific infrastructure projects will help drive projects forward.

“All in all, not a bad Autumn Statement for infrastructure, as increased capital expenditure and devolved powers will be key to driving forward infrastructure projects in the UK.”

Healthcare providers are under pressure to reduce the cost of care delivery and efficiently manage resources, as well as ensure that patient data stays secure. This is where technology will play a pivotal role

And a spokesman for Wedlake Bell said cash must also be spent on enhancing social care environments to help keep people out of hospitals.

“With funding uncertain, and the living wage coming into effect, the care industry faces increased financial pressure,” he added.

“Evidence suggests though that new buildings can mitigate against the negative impacts. Furthermore, modern, innovative designs not only improve staff wellbeing; they fundamentally improve care. New buildings lessen the chance of falls, they allow residents and the sick to socialise, and the cognitive effects of interior design have a dramatic effect on the provision of health.”

While Julia Evans, chief executive of construction consultancy, the BSRIA, welcomed the thousands of new jobs the cash injection could create, she warned of the continuing skills shortage.

“Today’s announcement could lead to thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships being created in the sector but we must, therefore, ensure that industry can indeed find the much-needed qualified and experienced construction employees to meet this demand. We must not let a labour shortage in this field impede progress.”

Technology experts are also welcoming the improvements in patient pathways and diagnostics, with £1billion in support for the drive to create a paperless NHS.

Bob Zemke, director of healthcare solutions at Extreme Networks, said: “Healthcare providers are also under pressure to reduce the cost of care delivery and efficiently manage resources, as well as ensure that patient data stays secure which was clear from the large amount of funding requested. This is where technology will play a pivotal role.

“Healthcare networks and devices are becoming significantly more complex, thanks to the wide adoption of connected devices by both healthcare professionals and patients. This presents a challenge for any IT department, who need to support these initiatives with strong and scalable Wi-Fi solutions to ensure that those who need to access the network can do so quickly and flawlessly.

Shared records and clinical information systems will be the drivers to re-shaping services around the needs of the patient

“Osbourne claims that the funds will ‘deliver better connected services for patients and ensure that doctors and nurses have the information they need at their fingertips’, but a connected healthcare system can only be effective if it keeps patients safe and their data secure.

“Healthcare providers should look to a Network Access Control (NAC) solution to ensure not only that the network itself is secure, but that those who are accessing it via devices only receive access to the data they are authorised to. This safeguards against medical device misconfigurations, vulnerabilities and the wrong information ending up in the wrong hands compromising patient confidentiality.”

And Markus Bolton of System C added: “Shared records and clinical information systems will be the drivers to re-shaping services around the needs of the patient.

“Previous technology funds in the NHS have kick-started lots of projects that have brought massive benefits to patient care and financial savings. Examples include the Manchester Care Record, which is being used to deliver integrated services to patients with multiple health and social care needs and has contributed to a reduction in emergency admissions and overall hospital activity; and Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, where an IT system contributed to saving over 350 lives in a single year.

"Trusts are struggling to make the required IT investments in the current climate, so this announcement is really good news.”

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