Big Data revolution 'key' to NHS estates improvements

IHEEM Annual Conference hears collection and use of data will be crucial to ensuring the NHS estates runs efficiently in the future

Data will be crucial to the future of the NHS and, in particular, to estates management

Estates and facilities managers need to embrace the ‘Big Data Revolution’ if they are to realise savings and improve the environment for patients and staff.

Speakers at the 2015 IHEEM Annual Conference in Manchester last week revealed that capturing and using information from a variety of sources will be critical to helping the NHS to make efficiencies without affecting frontline care.

The profile of healthcare estates management has never been higher, and is only going to increase

Dr Sue O’Connell, chief executive of Community Health Partnerships (CHP), said the organisation is working with NHS Property Services to create regional estates partnerships that will use collective data to drive improvements to community-based care.

“Data helps us to understand the estate and how well occupied it is, for example,” she told delegates at the conference.

“By having cost and occupancy data it shows us how efficient we are using that estate and what questions we should be asking.”

Mike Hobbs, managing director of Carillion and keynote speaker on the first day of the conference, added: “The profile of healthcare estates management has never been higher, and is only going to increase.

“We need to create an estate that can be used to improve clinical services, and that long-term vision has at its heart a digital revolution.

“Big Data will enable estates and facilities to move from being a reactive service to a planned and strategic one.”

And he said the fact the NHS has an ageing estate could work in its favour moving forward.

“This is great for getting performance data,” he added.

“If we can start to generate rich data sets; it will provide a lot of information on opportunities for improvements to these older buildings, and that will feed back into the design of new facilities.

“A lot of data is shared day in, day out, but we do not collectively use that to drive value. Until we start to focus on value and not cost, we will be having very different conversations than we should be having.”

We need to create an estate that can be used to improve clinical services, and that long-term vision has at its heart a digital revolution

His comments were supported by Peter Sellars, director of the NHS Estates & Facilities Policy Division at the Department of Health.

“Data is going to be really important to understand the current situation and the differences between organisations,” he said.

“Trusts will have to share data between them, and with the private sector, in order to achieve savings.”

Sharing information in this way will help to eradicate the significant differences between trusts, which currently see some paying a lot more than others for comparable services.

It is estimated that, if the worst-performing trusts improved even as far as the national average, between £1.2billion and £1.3billion could be saved.

Sellars said: “Some hospitals are preparing 2.6 meals per day, per patient; while at others the rate is as high as 4.2. In one hospital just aligning the ordering of patient meals with the electronic patient record to truly reflect patient numbers took 25% out of the cost.

“In estates management there are about 30 different areas we could look into. We are finding that in each of these there are things we could do to reduce cost.”

The start of this ‘data revolution’ is already happening as the Government demands trusts give very-detailed breakdowns of things like PFI costs, something that has not been done before.

In his keynote address, Lord Carter, chief executive of the Department of Health, said: “Estates are critical to what we do. If we do not have a good environment, it is hard to care for someone, no matter how good the staff are.

Data is going to be really important to understand the current situation and the differences between organisations

“We need estates that are clean and safe, we need to run them effectively and ensure the right use of space and, above all, we need them to be welcoming.

“It is about resource allocation – how we use it, how we buy, and how we run our estates.

“We have got to be more imaginative and this will only work if we take the great strength of the NHS and we turn to our colleagues in academia and the private sector and say ‘what does good look like and how do we achieve it and deliver safer care within the constraints that we have’.”

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