Published date: 09 September 2019

Blog: Improving Space Utilisation

How can we work together to better occupy and use the NHS estate? Read our key takeaways from a recent webinar on how NHS Property Services can support you.

Back in July we ran webinars to discuss with our customers on how NHS Property Services (NHSPS) can to help them maximise use of the spaces they occupy and achieve efficiencies. 

Webinar recordings and slides available here. 

Julie Whetton, Head of Property Management, and Simon Taylor, Head of Portfolio Optimisation, write their key points from the discussions. 

Challenges and opportunities for the NHS estate

The NHS is grappling with various changes which present a mixture of challenges and opportunities for its estate. 

Starting at the macro level, continued economic uncertainty and its impact on spending reviews has a significant impact, alongside changing workforce availability and retention issues (particularly in Primary Care), and demographic changes (i.e. an ageing population) impacting models of care. Looking closer at the system, there are then organisational changes such as CCG mergers, devolution, forming of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) and ever closer work with Local Authorities.

For GPs in particular, we heard from our customers last year some particular frustrations around billing and charges (clarity and charging for services not used), facilities management (maintenance and cleaning), leases (renewing and lack of alternatives) and quality of buildings (capacity and structural issues).

Throughout these changes and challenges, the NHS must consider how to adapt and evolve the estate to accommodate and support their services and patients, and NHSPS is here to support this. 

Making the best use of our estate

Capital planning goes hand in hand with estates planning, and whilst NHSPS accepts that new infrastructure is needed in the NHS, it is also important to consider how to make the best use of what is already available.

In order to ‘sweat’ these assets, the NHS must maximise the use of space and improve operational efficiencies, right-sizing and lowering running costs where it can. Where new developments are needed, NHSPS can look to unlock latent value in our properties to potentially bring forward the delivery of new health infrastructure as part of a wider development scheme.

How can we help you?

What can NHSPS do for you to help make a difference to your estate? Below you'll see our main areas of focus, under which fall our key teams and programmes.

  • National Office Programme supports lease event management, rationalisation and relocation, and developing agile and modern working environments for our own portfolio as well as providing consulting services to the wider NHS and public sector office estate.
  • Vacant Space Handback Scheme enables Commissioners to pass on the liability for eligible space to NHSPS and cut the cost of empty space in their buildings (with changes to policy earlier this year making it more accessible and straightforward).
  • Changes to financial processes, we’re cleaning the data, putting the right systems and processes in place, and making sure we can give clarity to our customers for their budgets and billing.
    • We have a guide to Annual Charging Schedule to further support this, and since August 2019 NHSPS teams have been planning and scheduling meetings with customers to review charges and occupancies to ensure clarity and agreement moving forward.
  • NHS Open Space brings technology to NHS estate management by offering flexible booking of clinical and non-clinical space via a web-based booking platform. For services looking for sessional space this offers greater flexibility and choice, and for Commissioners the improved usage data acts as a catalyst for better estate management.
  • Underlying these initiatives lays the foundational need for running our buildings safely and efficiently, which CORE - our new computer assisted facilities management system - and our recently restructured FM helpdesk supporting this by streamlining and regularising the way we capture, track and deal with issues in our buildings.
  • Regularising occupancies, to help NHSPS and our occupiers understand how our buildings are being used, which then provides clarity on costs, supports space management and informs future investment. Read a letter issued by Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England for more information on this.

Collaboration is key to success

The unique position NHSPS holds of providing property expertise whilst sitting in the NHS family means we fully understand the complexities and challenges you face. With collaborative partnerships in place we can work with you to offer pragmatic support and build solutions to make the best use of the estate to deliver optimum patient care.

For example, we are working with the Department of Health & Social Care and NHS England to become more closely engaged in the commissioning process at an earlier stage. This will help us to understand what types of buildings are required for what services, what buildings are available in the portfolio, and take a more directive approach on which buildings should be used and how.

We are always open to collaboration and are keen to hear from you to better adapt and evolve the estate. If you have any questions, please reach out via our Customer Services team.