Intelligent Healthcare

Four challenges facing Healthcare FM Managers during COVID-19 recovery

…and six ways FM partners can help overcome them.

COVID-19 recovery is more complex than simply asking ourselves, “can we recover from a pandemic?” and “is it over yet?”.

As healthcare begins to return to more ‘normal’ ways of operating, NHS trust estate facilities managers are faced with new and evolving challenges. As a result, facilities management partners have an opportunity to step up support and flex to changing demands.

Four Challenges Facing Healthcare FM Managers

  • Pressure on healthcare assets
  • Shortage of labour
  • Backlog maintenance
  • Achieving net zero carbon goals

1. Pressure on healthcare assets

The pressures of the last year have meant that health service staff and estates have been thinly stretched. For prolonged periods during the pandemic, elective surgery was paused to meet the needs of those hospitalised with COVID-19, and even critical services such, as oncology, were reduced. As we come out of the pandemic, there is a significant pent-up demand, which further adds to pressures on staff, equipment and other hard assets.

Alongside that, those people and building assets were often being used at over 100% of their standard capacity, creating further pressures.

2. NHS labour shortages

The NHS faces a critical labour and skills shortage. Total workforce vacancies across the *NHS stood at 93,806 as of June 2021 – up by 23% since March 2021 (76,082).

It’s not just a question of whether there are enough people with the right skills, but if enough job seekers are willing to take on the demands of available healthcare roles. There is also labour fatigue and questions around whether the high levels of NHS staff absence experienced during COVID-19 will continue to strain services and workforce planning.

Does a resilient operating model now need to allow for more significant labour shortages, short-term absence, and changes in the labour market?

3. The dual pressures of backlog maintenance

Backlog maintenance costs have increased significantly throughout COVID-19, rising from **£6.6bn in 2019 to over £9bn this year. This creates tension between maximising the use of assets, such as buildings and equipment, during COVID-19 recovery while knowing that the majority will require future investment to catch up on much-needed maintenance and repairs. Around 20% of that £9bn is categorised as high risk, which can significantly impact clinical outcomes, patient care, experiences and wellbeing.

4. Achieving a net zero carbon agenda

The NHS is responsible for ***around 4% of the UK’s carbon emissions. Despite being overshadowed by other challenges in the last year or two, COP26 and the return to more normality have placed achieving net zero carbon at the top of the NHS agenda.

Achieving net zero carbon by 2045 means that NHS Trusts need to continue developing plans whilst facilities managers also need to prioritise transforming carbon reduction plans into action.

Six ways FM partners can help

The drive to deliver greater productivity simply can’t be achieved by asking people to work harder. Instead, facilities management partners must utilise their skills and resources to help the healthcare industry work smarter.

1. Providing the best service through people who care

Recruiting the best, most relevant talent into healthcare estates has at times been difficult. Whilst rewarding, it’s a challenging and demanding environment to work in. Delivering demanding round-the-clock services in healthcare environments provides little or no opportunity for home working.

By bringing in the right skills, offering well-paid roles for talented people, providing them with the right tools and focussing on employee wellbeing and development, facilities management partners can help ease the strain.

By using these skills, we can help NHS Trusts solve workforce shortages and build on the achievements of the pandemic.

2. Solving challenges through the latest innovations

Attracting the right talent also needs to dovetail with digitisation and technology.

Using digitisation can provide data-rich management information that offers increased visibility and supports enhanced decision making. It can enable more control over asset use and give estate managers at NHS trusts greater certainty that they effectively allocate finite resources. It also provides an accurate measure of the impact of any changes they make to enhance service delivery.

At Mitie, we’ve implemented our digitised portering service, ensuring our team are in the right place at the right time to deliver an agile and responsive service.

3. Solving headline building issues in sustainable ways

Facilities management providers can also use their skills to help NHS trusts understand headline issues around their buildings

Utilising data and expertise to survey and manage the condition and replacement of assets will help keep them on track to meet net zero targets. It’s about starting those plans now and acting simultaneously, continuously enhancing the plan to achieve carbon emissions reductions.

4. Supporting person-centred care approaches

Putting the patient first lies at the heart of healthcare. Moving toward a customer-centred service provision by assessing our services through their eyes is key to enhancing the patient experience.

For example, when we provide catering or cleaning, we ensure our people understand how their job supports the delivery of clinical outcomes.

By adding a customer service focus to the training of our service provisions, we encourage our staff to consider how we’re meeting each service user’s needs – not just from a clinical perspective but also from a wellbeing standpoint.

This can be anything from how cleaning staff interact with a patient in a hospital bed to how we can use digitisation to support patient catering choices. For example, suppose a patient is moved to another ward. Our digitised catering solution can ensure their earlier meal choice moves with them and handle patients’ special dietary requirements.

5. Helping with inflation risk planning

Procurement takes a significant amount of time and effort, which we can help forward plan with. Using our experience to understand our customer’s objectives means we can support them in improving outcomes while managing inflation pressures.

6. Adding private sector flexibility, collaboration and agility

Facilities management partners can add real value by bringing an agile and responsive approach to service delivery. This freedom can help overcome some of the restrictions public sector bodies have certain obligations to comply with.

In short, we’re in this together. Facilities management partners like Mitie can help by bringing skilled people, technology and innovation together to help NHS Trusts stay in control of operations while maintaining the highest standards.

*The Nursing Times; ‘A bleak picture’: Nurse vacancies increase across English NHS

**TheKing’sFund; The NHS estate backlog grows again

***NHS National Ambition

"Achieving net zero carbon by 2045 means that NHS Trusts need to continue developing plans whilst facilities managers also need to prioritise transforming carbon reduction plans into action."

Adam Mitton, Director of Healthcare, Mitie

How can we help?

If you’re looking for more information, need to talk to someone about an enquiry or want to chat about your service needs, then you’ve come to the right place.

Please fill in our short form and a member of our Healthcare team will be in touch.