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Building a Smarter, Greener Healthcare Estate with Community at its Centre

Ahead of the National NHS Estates Conference on 19th April, we are speaking with our expert speakers to find out their thoughts on the current issues that are affecting the sector.

In this blog, we spoke with Carl-Magnus von Behr a PhD Student in Healthcare System Engineering at the University of Cambridge.

What are some of the challenges Estates and Facilities Management staff are facing?

EFM staff in the NHS face a multitude of challenges that can make it difficult to provide a safe and effective healthcare environment. For example, with private sector companies promoting wages that exceed those in the NHS, EFM departments often struggle to recruit sufficient levels of staff. This leads to many EFM professionals having to take responsibility for a multitude of disciplines without the appropriate training to prepare them for those responsibilities. As a result, EFM staff have incredibly busy work schedules and lack the time to reflect on recurring issues or engage in knowledge sharing with peers from other hospitals. 
Moreover, managing the NHS estate is becoming increasingly difficult, with new medical equipment and net-zero carbon technologies adding extra complexity to the maintenance tasks of EFM staff. 

What needs to be done to enhance knowledge sharing across NHS estates departments?

To enhance knowledge sharing across NHS EFM departments, healthcare organisations can consider the following strategies:

  1. Attract and retain talent: The NHS needs to clearly articulate and advertise the benefits of working for the NHS to attract motivated and knowledgeable talents to work in NHS EFM.
  2. Leadership development: There needs to be a development route for managers in leadership positions to learn how to effectively manage a workforce, including creating a collaborative culture within the team and motivating staff to reflect on inefficiencies and learn from best practice in other hospitals.
  3. Professional development: EFM budgets and workforce numbers will have to account for professional development of staff so they have enough time to attain the capabilities required for their responsibilities.
  4. Organisational structures: Currently, the knowledge sharing is driven by passionate individuals going beyond their job scope to help peers in other hospitals learn from their experience. However, in the future, knowledge sharing needs to be integrated into organisational structures, supporting EFM staff to share knowledge across organisational boundaries and learning from best practice and near misses in other hospitals.
  5. Professional bodies: Professional bodies and associations need to attract and engage with EFM staff on both operational and managerial levels. This could be done by offering knowledge exchange channels that are relevant for the specific needs of different organisational levels within NHS EFM.

Where do you see the healthcare estate in 3-5 years’ time?

With sufficient investment in the EFM workforce and the aging NHS Estate, alongside forward-looking and comprehensive strategies, the trend of increasing backlog maintenance can be reversed, continually thriving for state-of-the-art buildings and facilities across the UK. In this way, the NHS estate can continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of patients, staff, and the broader community. The focus will be on developing a sustainable and patient-centric design, while adopting new technologies to reduce the environmental impact of the healthcare sector and make important steps towards the ambitious net zero targets by 2040/45.

Learn more about the NHS Estate at the National NHS Estates Conference on 19th April 2023 at etc.venues St. Paul's. This pivotal strategy and networking conference offers a leading platform to discuss how to transform NHS estates to better meet the financial, operational and clinical demands of staff and patients. Complimentary tickets are available to the NHS and public sector, find out more here

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