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A professional diagnosis for the healthcare ‘crisis’

15 May 2006

Alan White and Michael Cant outlined the RICS FM Faculty’s emerging vision and structure in the November 2005 edition of PFM. Now in this first PFM FM Faculty Briefing, Michael Cant, Vice Chair, outlines one of the Institution’s 2006 economic and sector initiatives.

Sustainability and energy have become two significant challenges – whether viewed from 10 Downing Street, or from our homes and offices. And the response by the FM sector over the coming months and years will be a measure of our profession’s capability to address social and economic priorities.

Headlines are full of another emerging ‘crisis’ in the NHS. Even by the emotive statements of the day, the sheer scale of the NHS challenge is one hard to ignore at any level. A budget not dissimilar to that of a developing country, and with NHS staffing of around 1.3m, statements such as ‘Crisis looms as out-of-contract doctors threaten to leave NHS’ (BMA 27 June 2005) and ‘Sick Note – New Health Authority will not make the NHS better’ (Timesonline 13 April 2006) do not make for easy reading. The NHS is reputedly the third largest employer organisation in the world after the Chinese Army and Indian Railways. It’s getting hard to understand what exactly is going on, much less what needs to be done. Balancing such complex
budgets are trying the most resilient of chief executives.

The NHS property portfolio is one of the largest and most complex in Europe, and gaining some clarity in our service is becoming a priority. In terms of matters ‘in the public interest’ it surely ranks up there with the areas of most concern to government. To us, whether administrator, taxpayer, user (whether GP, consultant or A&E), or voter, it appears more than a small problem, and closer to a potential nightmare if it worsens. Excessive commercial or partisan commentary is also adding to the problem by confusing the general pubic. The RICS position at the forefront of independent and informed property advice to both private and public sectors is well acknowledged, but the issues cross many boundaries.

Working party
I will therefore be chairing an RICS FM Faculty Advisory Working Party on ‘Property & FM in our health sector – the creation, development and management challenge’. The objective of this initiative is to both inform and encourage a non-political and technically robust debate to support a better NHS infrastructure in the future. The Working Party will not have any party political agenda, or seek to address core medical or health issues. It will however consider the depth and breadth of property infrastructure and FM issues facing the NHS moving forward. Our brief is to assist in stripping away the seemingly cloudy veil that raises newspaper headlines ranging from ‘Decision expected on £1.1bn Barts deal … ministers deciding on stalled redevelopment scheme …’to ‘...anticipated £700 million plus NHS deficit for 2005-6, around 1 per cent of its budget...’.

Key questions the Working Party will consider includes an assessment as to the current role of FM to the NHS, emerging lessons as to the manner in which FM is being provided, assessed, and the impact PFI has, and may have, in reshaping the NHS in the future. We will welcome input from individuals and organisations – regardless of whether directly or indirectly engaged as a provider (PFI or otherwise) to the sector. We seek to assemble data on the challenge, and use this positively in advancing the debate in a more informed manner over the coming years. The Working Party will welcome your contribution, comment or participation. We will be seeking support from all parts of the property and FM sector, and writing to those we feel may be able to provide essential, unbiased, advice.

In a world where criticism of escalating non-medical costs in the NHS undermines public confidence, this initiative seeks to offer practical and beneficial service in the public interest. Where does the NHS need to be, and what do we need to do to support it? These are key professional issues that cross political and commercial boundaries. The Faculty seeks to identify and support a route forward where FM plays a supportive and sustainable role in getting the NHS to be seen as the best managed and maintained environment in the world.

The Advisory Working Party will be seeking submissions and commentary from organisations or individuals – all such communications will be kept confidential should it be specified. The report and findings will be made available to all contributors. The Infrastructure & Facilities sector provides an essential and significant backbone to much of the economy. The RICS FM Faculty supports and encourages such debate.

PFM will be publishing RICS FM Faculty Briefings on topical subjects at regular intervals as the strategy announced in PFM in November 2005 by Alan White and Mike Cant (pictured on the cover left). They aim to build on the Institution’s reputation to raise the profile of FM among government and decision makers

● Michael Cant is Vice Chair RICS FM Faculty and Director Larch Consulting Tel: 01926 312314 or 07973 637683, and mike@larch.co.uk


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