News archive - July 2014
Building relationships helps drive innovation
Last month saw the second annual healthcare buildings forum take place in Northamptonshire. This exciting event provides the ideal platform for suppliers to meet with the people in charge of commissioning for health and social care developments and to put their innovative products forward. Read on to find out what the delegates had to say about the event, plus where they think the priorities will lie for the sector in the coming months and years.
“During a single day at this event I have had good, indepth conversations with more than a dozen companies. To try and do that outside of these four walls would take about two weeks of sales reps travelling up and down the country, costing us thousands in time and petrol. If I could come to the forum for three or four days I would, as you get so much from it.”
This comment from Kevin Gorman, chairman of Britplas, sums up the reaction of delegates to this year’s healthcare buildings forum.
Held last month in Northamptonshire, the annual event, now in its second year, provides the ideal platform for suppliers to meet with the people in charge of commissioning for health and social care developments and to put their innovative products forward.
“The event really facilitates networking,” added George Gaduzo, managing director of GadARCH Design Services. “I have seen some really excellent products during my time here and I will go away and use them on future schemes, no question about that. I really have been very impressed with the innovations suppliers are bringing to the table that I might not otherwise have known about.”
Organised by Stable Events, sister brand of healthcare design & management (hdm) magazine, the two-day forum began with a panel discussion chaired by hdm editor, Jo Makosinski. Providing an expert insight into the current marketplace, and answering questions from the floor, were Geoff Irish, project manager and technical adviser at Royal Free Hospital in London; Simon Kydd, head of healthcare at WSP; Andrew Smith, director of Pozzoni Architects; Neil Fright, chief executive of Carbon Numbers Group; and Gary Barnes, senior director at Kier Health.
They told the audience that, with capital expenditure being curtailed, and tough targets for reducing carbon emissions, pressure was on industry to come up with new, more-efficient ways of working.
Irish said: “In the current climate, you will only get repeat business if you are asking a fair price for a product that provides a quality that will last.
“The real acid test is if you can go back four or five years after the building has opened and it still looks fresh. When looking at lighting, for example, there are certain products I just would not use. They may look lovely when they are installed, but the first time you go to change a bulb or a fitting, you can’t put it back together again. It’s about talking to the people who do the installation and maintenance and finding out what they want. It is a real struggle, but from an NHS point of view we are looking for products that do what they are supposed to do, are easy to maintain, and are competitively priced. Suppliers need to get out there are expose their products.”
Similar to last year, there was discussion among the audience about the benefits of standardising certain products, for example doors and windows, in order to improve manufacturing times and speed up the architectural design process.
Barnes, who works with the Department of Health on its ProCure21+ framework, said: “The P21+ principal supply chain partners are currently exploring areas in which we could introduce standardised products and designs, starting with wards and consulting rooms. It’s not about a one-size-fits-all approach for healthcare, but it is about seeing if there is a common theme. After all, budgets are tight so we need to ensure we are providing value for money.”
Smith added: “We are not talking about every building looking exactly the same, but it is about being clever with what we standardise and using the money we save by doing this to innovate in other areas.”
And Kydd said: “Every project we do for this sector is customised. Every suit I own is not from Savile Row, so we need to stop doing everything from scratch and instead buy off the peg at a cheaper rate and then pay a bit more to make it fit. It is about standardisation versus personalisation.”
But, if companies can come up with more-innovative ways of working, there are opportunities within a marketplace which, rather than slowing down, is changing direction, with money shifting from major new-build hospital schemes to the refurbishment and community health centre market.
“There are not very many big £50m schemes, but there are a lot of projects worth £50,000 and upwards,” said Kydd.
“What this means is there are a lot more projects to go round, so there are opportunities for smaller firms and newcomers to this sector. This does, however, put pressure on companies that might have several schemes underway at once. It means we need to collaborate.
“It’s a Rubik’s Cube and we need to do everything we can to help trusts operate more efficiently.”
Increasingly, architects and consultants are being relied on to do more than create products and design buildings.
Kydd explains: “Effective buildings enable clinical services to be delivered in the most-efficient way. With this in mind, when trusts commission new facilities they are keen to ensure they support clinical models.
“One hospital we worked with had maternity and paediatric units on two hospital sites. However, its demographic was that one geographical area was made up of mothers with young children while another was almost entirely older retired people. Rather than having all services at both sites, improvement works to the hospital environment enabled services to be delivered from one hospital where the population was more dependent on those services.
“Clinical strategies are changing all the time, and as an industry we need to keep up with this and our healthcare environments need to reflect that.”
Key opportunities moving forward will lie within the social care and mental health sectors, the panel predicted.
And they said the UK had much to learn from, and a considerable amount of expertise to offer to, health systems overseas.
Smith said: “The Netherlands, the US and Australia all do health and care delivery in different ways and particularly in the care home sector, where we work, there is a lot of information sharing. We look around the world to see what is innovative and what we can bring back to the UK. We are really proud to see that some of our schemes are setting a standard, with people visiting from other countries. It is wonderful to have that global awareness here in the UK and, moving forward, we should not be a closed industry. Being open is the only way we will be able to move forward.”
Kydd added: “The NHS is a huge landowner and has got a history of sprawling estates and we need to be more like the US has been in sweating those assets and making healthcare environments work as efficiently as they can. There are exciting times ahead and the NHS has a lot to learn. However, it also have a lot to teach others when it comes to larger healthcare projects.”
For suppliers, the onus is on innovation. Kevin Gormon, chairman of Britplas, said: “Healthcare operators have got to tell us where the problems are, so that we can come up with the solutions.
“It’s about designing the right environments that are positive and that encourage people to get well.”
How are you performing?
And those buildings also have to be environmentally friendly – a key demand for all projects both public and private sector.
Fright told the audience: “Every building provides us with data about how it is performing. A very quick analysis will tell us where we may have conflict and where we could make improvements. Moving forward, trusts will need to work with carbon experts to uncover areas for improvement and ensure future buildings are operated as efficiently as possible.”
As well as two days of one-on-one meetings, there were also lunchtime and evening networking sessions, plus a gala dinner, during which the England v Uruguay match was televised. There was also a hilarious after-dinner speech by comedian, Bob Mills.
Makosinski said of the event: “This is the second year for the hbf, which is growing all the time. It is a simple format, but one that promises one-on-one time with key contacts who are currently active in the health and social care sector. It provides a unique opportunity to secure business and to network with potential clients and peers. Once again we have had exceptional feedback and already have several companies that have signed up for the next event.”
Following on from the success of the hbf, Stable Events will be holding the second mental health and dementia facilities forum in Warwickshire on 25 and 26 September. For more information go to the website at www.mhdf-forum.co.uk, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.