06 August 2013
Paul Disley-Tindell, director corporate real estate at Telereal Trillium, comments on The King’s Fund’s report, NHS buildings: obstacle or opportunity?
Independent health charity, The King’s Fund’s recently released report, NHS buildings: obstacle or opportunity?, highlights how the “NHS estate management function has [historically] been largely concerned with the maintenance and operation of buildings”. It shows that building utilisation has not been actively managed, with even new facilities having vacant and under occupied accommodation as a result of over-specified and inflexible space. The report goes on to suggest that the estate’s commercial opportunities have not been properly exploited, reducing both capital proceeds from sales and the revenues generated from leasing.
The report considers that the key challenge for the recently formed NHS Property Services [and other NHS organisations] is the need to develop strategic property management expertise so as to promote new ways of thinking about the facilities required to deliver modern healthcare services. Given the financial and operational pressures the NHS currently faces, time is of the essence in deploying the necessary skills and bringing about a step change in the portfolio. Whilst these capabilities could be built up within the NHS, this would take time and so some form of partnership with the private sector is likely to be required in order to accelerate the process.
In line with the One Public Estate pilots recently announced by the Cabinet Office, a comprehensive estates strategy for the NHS will need consider opportunities to share accommodation with other public sector organisations, breaking down the barriers between all the parties involved in the provision of health and social care services. Piecemeal developments should be avoided, with projects only proceeding when they are “part of a wider strategy to develop networked, integrated services”.