Flexibility and standardisation ‘the secret’ to the future of the healthcare estate


Sustainability vital, conference told

Flexibility and standardisation will be the buzzwords for the future of healthcare building design, conference delegates heard recently.

Speakers at the 2011 IHEEM Healthcare Estates Conference said that, despite an overall reduction in the healthcare estate, particularly in the acute sector, the NHS would still need to make improvements to its buildings to adapt to rapidly-changing care pathways. And, they said, it would be relying on the private sector to come up with affordable and innovative solutions.

Chris Shaw, director of MAAP Architects, said: "We are living, particularly in the NHS, in a time when the old ways of doing things are unreliable to say the least.

"Historically decisions on investment have been made with a vision that facilities will last anything from 25 to 60 years. Now we are being asked to design with much shorter horizons than ever before, maybe four to five years, so buildings will have to be adaptable. We need to think in a more creative way. We have to create a vision for change and that will mean prioritising and managing risk."

Chris Sherwood, of Nightingale Associates, added: "The ability to contract or expand a whole hospital site will be very important. We need to be able to turn multi-bed bays into single rooms or single rooms into offices. It is about building flexible buildings and architects will have a big role to play in that."

And Susan Francis, programme director at Architects for Health, said that, in the future, estates and facilities professionals and designers would not be considering how much space was needed, but how little.

"It is about a change of mindset," she added.

Going forward, NHS trusts will be looking for industry to work with them and come up with innovative solutions at a time when capital funding is tight.

Peter Sellars, head of ProCure21+ and the deputy director of the gateway reviews and estates and facilities division at the Department of Health, said: "In the past the NHS could chuck more money into a procurement scheme if it went over budget, but they won’t be able to do that any longer. Once the budget is in place the principal supply chain partner will have to deliver what is required within that envelope. The NHS will be paying much closer attention to cost and will be looking at things like price per square metre, so standardisation will be important."

And IHEEM president, Paul Kingsmore, added: "There will be big cuts in capital and this will be long term, not short term. We will need to look at new models of funding and the secret will be doing more with less. We will need a greater focus on risk management and we will need to work more closely with the private sector and look at partnerships.

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