Estates and facilities professionals central to NHS improvement

IHEEM Conference hears that estates revolution will play key role in transformation of NHS

Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health at the Department of Health, was keynote speaker at this year's conference

NHS estates and facilities managers will play a pivotal role in modernising the health service, a Government minister told delegates to this year’s IHEEM Conference.

It is very important to have a high-quality estate, and even more important in healthcare; where it is not just about a good experience day to day, but an experience that can impact on recovery and survival rates

The 2017 event, held last week, was split into three separate streams focusing on Strategy and Leadership; Engineering and Facilities Management; and Planning, Design and Construction.

These ran alongside the annual Healthcare Estates exhibition, which this year attracted more than 200 companies, many of which used the show to launch new and innovative products and services.

Within the exhibition hall there were a further six theatres offering free-to-attend talks on key areas of interest, including Water and Infection Control, Energy and Sustainability; and Facilities Management. There was also an Apprentices Theatre aimed at helping to meet the shortfall in skilled construction and facilities management professionals.

Keynote speeches were given by Simon Corben, director and head of profession, NHS estates and facilities at NHS Improvement; and Lord O’Shaughnessy, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health at the Department of Health.

To deliver a world-class NHS, we need a world-class estate, and at the moment we can’t say that we have got that

Lord O’Shaughnessy told the audience estates and facilities management was crucial to delivering the Government’s plan to improve NHS services.

Priority areas, he said, were estates utilisation and getting the best value for money from every square metre.

Asking the right questions

“We have to make sure we take a clear hard look at the estate we have and ask ‘is it effective’? Are we using spaces effectively, and are we integrating the technology available?

“There is a significant backlog issue and patching it up is not going to be enough.”

Any land deemed surplus to requirement should be sold off, he added, to fund improvements frontline services and to meet the Government’s demand for more space for housing.

“It is very important to have a high-quality estate, and even more important in healthcare; where it is not just about a good experience day to day, but an experience that can impact on recovery and survival rates.

“To deliver a world-class NHS, we need a world-class estate, and at the moment we can’t say that we have got that.”

Currently, a third of the NHS estate is used for non-clinical services – 8 million sq m.

O’Shaughnessy said a review of existing stock was vital to decide what was needed and what could be sold off.

He added that NHS Improvement had been charged with reporting on the best way to address this issue.

“Land and estates are not just a side issue,” he said.

“It’s about utilising the buildings we have to achieve joined-up care in a way that is completely different to the model NHS has been doing.

“There is an opportunity for all of you to get involved in that challenge.

“Unless we have got estate fit for purpose; we will not be able to deliver a 21st-century NHS.”

The state of the NHS estate is dire. We need to keep the best bits, reduce the old bits, and take the time to look in earnest at how we best do this

And he said innovation would play a key role, telling delegates: “We are great at coming up with ideas, but not very good at taking these innovations and getting them beyond one, two, three or four trusts, unless you have a very big brand.

“There are Academic Health Science Networks and test bed sites, but I have now taken over the innovation brief and we are looking at new ideas on how to bridge the gap.”

Offering further insight into improving the use of the estate, Clive Price of CPA Solutions said it was important to fully understand exactly what buildings and land are available and what they are used for.

Taking the opportunities

He added: “You need to break down an estate and find out how much space you occupy and then put a cost to that.

“If it’s too much or too little, then what are the opportunities?

“We want to get to a point where it’s high occupancy, high income from every building.

“The state of the NHS estate is dire. We need to keep the best bits, reduce the old bits, and take the time to look in earnest at how we best do this.

“Estates and facilities directors need to take ownership of this.”

EMS Healthcare is helping to address capacity issues with the launch of mobile clinical units. Modular, mobile and offsite solutions are becoming increasingly popular among healthcare trusts

Also helping to improve efficiencies will be the continued adoption of offsite construction techniques.

Ian Howell of Elliott OSS told the conference: “There is this myth that offsite is about old school prefabs, but it is now one of the fastest-growing markets in the UK building industry.

“The systems we can now deliver allow architectural flair and you can create a landmark building. It’s not about boxes any more.

We may not be able to solve everything, but offsite and mobile buildings can address many of the key challenges

“Offsite construction offers flexibility, faster build times, repeatability and there are significant financial savings to be made.

“There is no noticeable difference compared to new-build and you can use all the same materials and finishes.”

Keith Austin from EMS Healthcare added that its mobile solutions were increasingly being used by NHS trusts to deal with capacity issues and to take services closer to patients’ homes.

“It’s important for us to understand the drivers for NHS services and to see what solution works best,” he said.

“We may not be able to solve everything, but offsite and mobile buildings can address many of the key challenges.”

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