Estates professionals from across the North of England came together last week in Manchester to debate ‘The Future of Healthcare’. Hosted by Built Environment Networking Limited the event featured a panel of experts from NHS Property Services, Community Health Partnerships and NHS England.
A recent report by the Kings Fund (NHS buildings: obstacle or opportunity) highlighted the fact that modern care is still designed around buildings rather than the needs of the patient. But did the panel feel that this was the case in Greater Manchester?
When asked about their three greatest challenges in managing the current NHS Estate Mike Burrows (Director for NHS England) was first to mention the need to change how the NHS delivers services in order to meet changing health demands.
“If we are to meet the needs of future generations and especially an ageing population with more people living longer with long term health conditions, this means a complete rethink of how services are provided. We need to look at how we use our current estate and ensure that it is fit for purpose.”
Guy Godwin from NHS Property Services also pointed out that since the Health and Social Care Act came into being on 1st April the NHS landscape had completely changed.
“There are more organisations to consult and work alongside if we want to improve NHS estate. Historically our work was less about commissioning strategies. This is now central if we are to be effective going forward.”
NHS Property Services and its sister company Community Health Partnerships were quizzed about their relationship and how they were working together to standardise their processes for the benefit of customers. Guy Godwin emphasised the fact that NHS PS had only been in existence since April 1st 2013 but that the two organisations complemented each other.
“Our first priority is to ensure our current portfolio of over 4000 NHS properties is safe, warm and clean for patients and tenants. Of course we in close contact with Community Health Partnerships as well as our other partners to look at service models for the future. Commissioning strategies will drive joint working, but it’s also important we fully understand the estate we’ve inherited.”
Neil Grice, Area Director for CHP was quick to agree,
“Both organisations are talking to CCGs and we want to work shoulder to shoulder with them. As commissioning strategies come together I’m hopeful we’ll start to see some exciting developments.”
The panel were also in agreement around the subject of funding for future schemes.
Guy Godwin (NHSPS) commented. “For anyone hoping to raise funds for new buildings or schemes they must consider the revenue consequences. There is little money around and the focus is already starting to shift into improving the existing estate.”
Mike Burrows cited the recent report by Sir Bruce Keogh as supportive of his ambition for health services in Greater Manchester.
“It’s clear that at a national level clinicians are in agreement regarding concerns about quality and safety in the NHS. Sir Bruce Keogh supports our work because he knows it will save lives. Unfortunately at the moment there is a restriction on how funds are allocated nationally. In my view we should be spending more on public health than expensive specialist services. I’m aware this might be an unpopular choice but it would provide better value for money and lead to better health outcomes.”
Schemes currently in use in Greater Manchester were highlighted by Neil Grice (CHP)
“The gateway centres in Salford have been very successful. They bring local services together through local authorities working alongside the NHS. In my view this is the way forward”.
The discussion clearly illustrated both the huge challenges and opportunities facing those tasked with developing the NHS Estate over the next few years. The Kings Fund Report appears to support the views of the panel and concludes that providers need to develop joint ventures and alliances with organisations that understand property management. Guy Godwin agrees,
“We have the expertise to add value to commissioning strategies. Only by working with others will we realise real improvements for patients and providers.”
The gateway centres in Salford have been very successful. They bring local services together through local authorities working alongside the NHS. In my view this is the way forward”Neil Grice, CHP Area Director