On 5 July 2018 the UK celebrated a platinum anniversary. The NHS is now 70 years old. While July gave us the chance to celebrate 70 years of an innumerable number of lives helped and saved, this year also gives us the opportunity to look ahead and plan for the next 70 years.
The health service’s future is undoubtedly a priority for the Government. Earlier this year, the Prime Minister committed an extra £20bn a year to NHS England’s budget. Whatever your view of whether this is the right level of investment, it is clearly a real statement of intent, which acknowledges the scale of the health service’s challenges and that investment today is vital.
For the property industry, this conversation focuses on the health service’s physical infrastructure and the role we play in ensuring it is fit-for-purpose for generations to come – for patients, for the fifth largest workforce in the world and for the drive to harness technology, innovation and placemaking to better prevent ill-health and foster good health.
As established in the NHS Five Year Forward View and through the recommendations of the Naylor Review, and the government’s subsequent response to this, significant transformation of the estate is needed. Without a more modern and efficient estate, the NHS cannot achieve its ambitions for easier access to health services closer to home, world-leading clinical research and effective collaboration of services for a better patient experience.
The British Property Federation’s Healthcare Committee works to highlight the potential of the real estate sector to support the NHS’ transformation with government, with researchers and with the health service itself. Its members have delivered projects all over the country, where private sector investment has been the conduit to closer working and collaboration between primary care and acute services; and to a far wider range of diagnostic and treatment options being delivered in communities to reduce patient travel times.
Examples of what this means in practice include Assura’s Sudbury Primary Care Centre (pictured above) and Primary Health Properties’ Lion Medical Centre in Stourbridge.
Having everything under one roof – from general practice, dentistry, and mental health services to community midwifery, diagnostics and pharmacy – at the heart of a community, takes pressure off surrounding hospitals.
Delivered by the private sector, operated by the public sector – these examples are evidence of public-private sector partnerships’ capacity to deliver more modern facilities, which underpin a more efficient and more effective NHS.
With further commitment from the Government, facilities like these can become more commonplace, ensuring the best outcomes for patients and NHS staff. The Naylor Review highlighted that one third of future capital investment needed for the NHS estate will have to come from private investment; the real estate sector stands ready to play its part, but detail is needed to open the starting gates.
The Government must now focus on providing pace and clarity around its decision-making, timelines and processes for agreeing this – to allow the private sector to make investment decisions today, which will ensure higher quality infrastructure and significant savings for the health service for years to come.
As a society, health and wellbeing at all stages of increasingly longer lives should be one of our highest priorities. While we celebrate the NHS’ successes, looking ahead, we should acknowledge the critical role of strategic property development and management in ensuring the delivery of high-quality care and a better NHS.
Alex Green is assistant director (development & sustainability) at the British Property Federation.