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News - June 2019

Clicks and mortar

Clicks and mortar

Technology and the NHS estate have a key role to play in enabling the delivery of the NHS Long-Term Plan, according to a new report.

Clicks and Mortar, produced by health think tank, the King’s Fund, and supported by NHS Property Services (NHSPS), highlights the case for prioritising the alignment of technology and the estate in order to enable the closer integration of health and social care.

It states that technology will lead to a different, rather than smaller, estate.

And, as technology develops and changes more quickly than buildings; this will have significant implications for how space in buildings are used, how flexible these buildings can be to accommodate different uses of technology, and how more value can be created out of the existing estate, it predicts.

The report identifies a number of challenges to getting the most value out of technology and the estate.

These include the availability of the right skills within the NHS, as well as accessing the amount of investment needed to deliver this alignment, given the downward pressure on capital budgets.

A clear role

To tackle this, NHSPS is promoting a prioritisation within the NHS for bringing together technology and the estate. In particular, the Long Term Plan’s shift to integrated care systems (ICS) creates an opportunity for planning technology and the estate across organisations within and outside the NHS, including local government and the third sector.

The King’s Fund’s report says there is also a ‘clear role for the national NHS bodies in supporting this work’.

For example, common data and technology standards can be set from the centre, which can also facilitate the sharing of skills and learning across NHS organisations.

It will also need to lead on ensuring patients and staff are fully engaged in the alignment process so that a more-integrated health and social care service meets their needs.

Roslyn Churchill, chief information officer at NHSPS, said: “Technology and the estate are both vital to delivering the NHS Long Term Plan. This report highlights the important role NHSPS can play in continuing to bring the two together to help deliver a transformative strategic vision for the future estate.”

A clear example of where technology and the estate could be better aligned is in the use of under-utilised areas of buildings.

Currently, space is inconsistently administered across the NHS estate using different processes for booking, pricing, access conditions and service levels, which makes it difficult to book and plan space requirements, leading to wasted time and money.

NHS Property Services is solving this through NHS Open Space, a new online booking system that allows users to view detailed information about rooms, check availability then book, pay and manage the booking.

Asset management

Room types available vary from clinical space to meeting rooms and offices.

Since the pilot launched in 2017, it has had over 1,000 unique users from 350 NHS bodies and companies, making over 65,000 bookings, which translates to 350,000 hours of vital service.

The NHS Open Space pilot will be further expanded across the NHS in 2019.

John Westwood, director of asset management at NHS Property Services, said: “We are pioneering the alignment of technology and the estate through our NHS Open Space pilot, which makes a more-efficient use of the building space available in the NHS through a simple to use digital platform.

“This allows healthcare professionals to easily find and book available space in NHS buildings, saving time and money while providing greater flexibility and choice.”

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