Comment

01.02.15

New approach to NHS property brings efficiency to the fore

Source: National Health Executive Jan/Feb 2015

Simon Holden, chief executive of NHS Property Services, explains how the company’s approach is transforming property and facilities management and reaping efficiencies nationwide.

The setting up of NHS Property Services was one of the less publicised aspects of the 2013 health service reforms.

Property was perceived as a backwater of NHS business, without the life and death immediacy of patient care and clinical activity.

Yet what happened was a quiet revolution in how the NHS estate is managed and how patient care environments are improved – and benefits are already being delivered for the whole service.

Before April 2013 the responsibility for the primary care estate lay with 161 primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. This highlighted the challenge – 161 different ways of doing the same tasks and ‘Estates’ languishing at the end of meeting agendas nationwide.

Our 11% of the NHS estate makes up one of the UK’s largest property portfolios – worth £3bn and containing 4,000 properties, including health centres, hospitals and offices.

The creation of NHS Property Services has helped change old views on the NHS estate and the Five Year Forward View by NHS England rightly highlights the huge benefits and potential of managing property wisely.

We are proud custodians of the NHS estate, firmly embedded within the NHS family. But our limited company status – our sole shareholder is the secretary of state for health – allows us to operate with a more commercial property focus. That said, every pound we save goes back to the NHS. We do not make a profit.

Estates and facilities management is what we do – all day every day – with a real focus on bringing about national benefits, but delivered locally via our regional set-up.

We have four regions covering England, with support from a Head Office team in Skipton House, London. Our work divides between two key disciplines – asset management and facilities management (FM).

As asset managers, we act as landlords for existing properties and work with commissioners to plan healthcare estates for the future.

As facilities managers, we offer service improvement and contract management and the operational delivery of hard and soft FM.

We have created and work with consistent systems, procedures and standards and our approach is driving efficiencies and economies of scale that were unimaginable and unachievable under the previous arrangements.

We plan to bring down the running costs of our part of the NHS estate by £100m from its £800m starting point over the next three years. This saving will be passed back to the NHS.

In our first 20 months we have made some steady gains:

  • Secured delivery of more than 50 new developments, refurbishments and improvements, which all help improve patient care
  • Spent £196m on capital developments
  • Saved £55m in efficiencies, which are passed back to the NHS
  • Sold 142 properties – all declared surplus to NHS requirements by commissioners – and brought in £71m from these sales
  • Seen 1,400 urgently-needed new homes planned for these sites – some of which had been awaiting sale for several years previously

We have redesigned our business, given that the company was formed with staff from 161 different predecessor organisations. Our staff numbers have reduced by 150, saving £7m a year.

We can confidently offer our professional expertise to our partners on healthcare estates projects of all kinds. We work with NHS partner organisations and also with local authorities, and in public/private sector relationships.

All partnership combinations open up routes towards optimising the potential of our part of the NHS estate.

Planning buildings and facilities to meet the requirements of the modern NHS is our core business. Delivering best use of the NHS estate on behalf of the taxpayer and securing improved services for patients is our ultimate aim and achievement.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email opinion@nationalhealthexecutive.com

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