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News archive - November 2015

‘Big Data’ to transform healthcare estates

‘Big Data’ to transform healthcare estates

A ‘Big Data’ revolution will be critical to solving the NHS estates crisis and driving service improvements across the board, the 2015 IHEEM Annual Conference heard.

With a reduction in available capital expected in the Chancellor’s Spending Review, to be announced later this month, the NHS is going to have to become better at collecting and using data to enable opportunities for efficiencies to be realised, speakers said.

And working with professional bodies, academics, other trusts, and the private sector will be vital to enable data to be captured and reviewed and to pinpoint areas for improvement.

Mike Hobbs, managing director of Carillion, and keynote speaker on the first day of the conference in Manchester, said: “The profile of healthcare estates management has never been higher, and is only going to increase.

“We need to create an estate that can be used to improve clinical services, and that long-term vision has at its heart a digital revolution.

“Big Data will enable estates and facilities to move from being a reactive service to a planned and strategic one.”

An ageing estate

He added: “The NHS has an ageing estate, but this is great for getting performance data. If we can start to generate rich data sets; it will provide a lot of information on opportunities for improvements, and that will feed back into the design of new facilities.

“A lot of data is shared day in, day out, but we do not collectively use that to drive value. Until we start to focus on value and not cost, we will be having very different conversations than we should be having.”

His comments were supported by Peter Sellars, director of the NHS Estates & Facilities Policy Division at the Department of Health.

“Data is going to be really important to understand the current situation and the differences between organisations,” he said.

“Trusts will have to share data between them, and with the private sector, in order to achieve savings.”

Sharing information in this way will help to eradicate the significant differences between trusts, which currently see some paying a lot more than others for comparable services.

It is estimated that, if the worst-performing trusts improved even as far as the national average, between £1.2billion and £1.3billion could be saved.

Sellars said: “Some hospitals are preparing 2.6 meals per day, per patient; while at others the rate is as high as 4.2. In one hospital just aligning the ordering of patient meals with the electronic patient record to truly reflect patient numbers took 25% out of the cost.

“In estates management there are about 30 different areas we could look into. We are finding that in each of these there are things we could do to reduce cost.”

The start of this ‘data revolution’ is already happening as the Government demands trusts give very-detailed breakdowns of things like PFI costs, something that has not been done before.

Efficiency drive

Dr Sue O’Connell, chief executive of Community Health Partnerships (CHP) said the organisation is working with NHS Property Services to create regional estates partnerships that will use collective data to drive improvements to community-based care.

“Data helps us to understand the estate and how well occupied it is, for example,” she told the conference.

“By having cost and occupancy data it shows us how efficient we are using that estate and tells us what questions we should be asking.”

The conference also called for estates and facilities directors to be taken more seriously at board level within trusts.

“Very few trust chief executives have an estates and facilities background,” said O’Connell.

“It’s really important that leaders understand the importance of the estate.

“Estates have for so long been the Cinderella, but they are fundamentally important to everything.”

Karen Baker, chief executive of the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, urged estates directors to ‘beat down doors’.

She added: “I do not have estates managers banging on my door telling me it’s important. I do not ask, and you do not tell me to pay attention. It’s time to bang down our doors and tell us how you can help us to operate more efficiently.”

Julien Amey, chief executive of IHEEM, said the organisation was working with Engineering UK to try and solve the current recruitment crisis in the estates and engineering sectors.

“We are looking at how we can provide the workforce of the future and how we can create good leaders,” he told delegates.

The conference also heard from Lord Carter, chief executive of the Department of Health.

A big cost

He said estates was one of the top-four ‘big costs’ for the NHS along with staff wages, drugs, and general supplies, so should be seen as ‘vital’.

“Estates are critical to what we do. If we do not have a good environment, it is hard to care for someone, no matter how good the staff are.

“We need estates that are clean and safe, we need to run them effectively and ensure the right use of space and, above all, we need them to be welcoming.

“It is about resource allocation - how we use it, how we buy, and how we run our estates.

“We have got to be more imaginative and this will only work if we take the great strength of the NHS and we turn to our colleagues in academia and the private sector and say ‘what does good look like and how do we achieve it and deliver safer care within the constraints that we have.”

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