Estates and facilities needs to move from the basement to the boardroom

Estates and facilities managers have 'key role to play' in helping the NHS to be more efficient, but only if profile is raised, conference hears

NHS estates and facilities professionals need to move from the basement to the boardroom if trusts are to achieve the financial savings the Government is demanding, according to speakers at the IHEEM Annual Conference.

They have a key role to play in achieving financial efficiencies and driving through the ‘green agenda’ which is demanding an 80% reduction in NHS CO2 emissions by 2050, delegates heard.

But to be a part of the solution, they need to make themselves heard at board level.

Our time is now, so start knocking on the door of the director of finance and start talking about money and return on investment. Like the O2 advert says, we need to ‘be more dog’

“Apparently the recession is over, but austerity remains,” said Greg Markham, outgoing president of the Institute of Healthcare Engineering and Estate Management (IHEEM).

“We have a duty to provide a safe and clean estate, but also an efficient estate. There are lots of things going on, but these are not universal, and there are lots of opportunities we are missing every day.

“We need to be more business-like and less engineer. We need to talk about the financial benefits and, if finance directors are wary, then we need to show them what we have already done. We need to engage at board level and talk their language.

“Our time is now, so start knocking on the door of the director of finance and start talking about money and return on investment. Like the O2 advert says, we need to ‘be more dog’.”

Putting estates and facilities managers centre stage was a move supported by private contractors working within the healthcare sector. Paul Chandler, executive vice president of Skanska UK, said: “Across many trusts the facilities services teams and estates managers have not always been seen as critical to what we do. But you can’t produce a world-class service from a second-level environment.

“Go to any major project site or hospital estate and you will find the facilities management team in the basement trying to provide a world-class service. You won’t get the best service if they are stuck in the basement or working from temporary buildings. We have to raise the profile and unless we make FM important, we can’t guarantee a good service.

“We have got to move them from the basement to the boardroom. We can’t innovate if they are not part of the team.

We have got to move estates and facilities from the basement to the boardroom. We can’t innovate if they are not part of the team

“People’s lives are at stake and it’s about their health. It is really important what we do in estates and facilities and if we are brave and show strong leadership and we challenge the norms and the way we have always done things, then we will improve in ways we have never seen before.”

If they can get into the boardroom, then the reputation of estates and facilities will improve as other departments see how much they can contribute to the efficiency drive, particularly in terms of making services and buildings more environmentally friendly, he added.

“Being green is not just about doing the right thing, but more about finding ways to be more efficient. If we think about the ways we can do things better, there will be long-term benefits. Standing still is not an option.”

“But no one can do it on their own,” he warned. “Long-term benefits are demonstrated by working together. Raising the profile of estates and facilities is vital to this.”

There is not one magic answer, but I do feel estates and facilities can contribute a lot towards the drive for efficiencies.”

Peter Sellars, head of profession for the NHS Estates and Facilities Policy Division at the Department of Health’s Group Operations and Assurance Directorate, said he was being asked to report to government ministers every week, telling delegates: “That’s how important the NHS estate is to them.

“Estates and facilities will be at the centre of it and we all have a huge challenge. The current way we run the NHS estate is clearly not sustainable.

“Currently the national profile of estates and facilities has never been higher and this won’t weaken or change. There’s nowhere to hide. We need to come together and have one common voice that will benefit services.

“There is not one magic answer, but I do feel estates and facilities can contribute a lot towards the drive for efficiencies.”

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