Published date: 11 December 2019

Better supporting the NHS at a local level with new regions and roles

One of the key strategies at NHS Property Services (NHSPS) is ensuring we are closely aligned with the healthcare system, linked to our core purpose of helping the NHS to transform. This is particularly important in the period of change we find ourselves in following the Long-Term Plan’s launch earlier this year. We have seen the appointment of NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I) Regional Directors across the country, and the introduction of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and Primary Care Networks (PCNs). Both signal a major shift in how the NHS will function, devolving autonomy to local level and diversifying decision-making units, and NHSPS needs to respond in kind. David Smithson-Rudd, Head of Relationship Management at NHSPS, writes on how NHSPS is changing to better support the overall system.

Why we’re changing: Long-Term Plan and regional focus

The launch of the NHS Long-Term Plan in January 2019 was without a doubt one of the most exciting announcements about the future of health and social care in England. The scope of change is huge, with a strong focus on integrated health and social care alongside a drive for innovation and the greater use of technology to help improve the health of our population.

As the largest NHS property owner and service provider, NHSPS understood the significance of this plan and prioritised exploring how could and should support the system in transforming to provide excellent patient care. We’ve already started doing this in some areas, with our partnership with the King’s Fund delivering a report called Clicks and Mortar: Technology and the Estate which was well received by our property and healthcare partners.

We also noted a shift towards more regional and local-level autonomy, with the introduction of Regional Directors, ICSs and PCNs meaning more decision-making power is held at this level to shape healthcare provision. These regions were determined ahead of the Long-Term Plan’s publication, with NHSE/I introducing seven new joint regions across England, which differed in some areas to the eight geographical zones NHSPS was operating on. Therefore, aligning with these regions and working closer with their decision-making units and stakeholders was of paramount importance to our strategy.

How we’re changing: new regional structure and Regional Directors

From April 2020 NHSPS will re-align its eight zones into the seven regions to match NHSE/I . These changes are being made to ensure that we’re better aligned with the NHS, send a clear message that we are adapting to support its structure and transform our regional reporting. Aligned reporting will allow direct comparisons and analysis with our partners in other NHS organisations, enabling us to identify areas where we can further improve.

We are aware that organisational change can cause disruption to our staff and the service they offer to our NHS partners. Therefore, although the alignment will help to transform how we operate as a business, we have ensured that the impact on our people is minimal, with no job losses and only reporting line changes required.
In addition to the regional re-alignment, we are introducing a Regional Partnership Director in each region. These Directors will manage our relationship strategy with the new NHSE/I Regional Directors and ICSs, better understanding their needs, challenges and opportunities. With this perspective, they will take a key role in the optimisation of the estate in their region, and co-ordinate wider NHSPS teams to support on estate strategies and project delivery.

Recruitment was recently completed for all seven positions, with all successful candidates having come from within the organisation. Most will start their new roles from Monday 2nd December 2019.

The Regional Partnership Directors are:

North East and Yorkshire Karina Dare
North West Daniel Burdett (from 3rd Feb 2020)
Midlands Andrew Strange
East of England Paul Cross
London Jake Roe
South East Susan Swaffer
South West James Page

These individuals have all worked within NHS estates for several years and are already familiar with the challenges and opportunities in their respective region.

Looking ahead: what will we achieve?

Our Regional Directors’ first task will be to assess our current profile in each of the STPs and ICSs, identifying opportunities to support the development of their regional healthcare estate. Over the coming months and years they will build, maintain and improve relationships across their region by demonstrating NHSPS’ ability to deliver for the overall system, playing a key role in improving the health of the population. Following the shift towards more diverse and collaborative decision-making units across the NHS, we hope to grow our role within these teams by delivering estate transformation to enable excellent healthcare.
NHSPS knows that it needs to work closely with its colleagues and partners across the entire health and social care system. The organisation takes to heart the drive for increased collaboration between the various organisations as we ultimately share a common purpose and goal; to support the world’s first and foremost public health system.

If you have any thoughts or questions on these changes, I’d love to hear from you, so please do get in touch.