Sander van de Rijdt, co-founder and managing director of PlanRadar, looks at how construction’s technological revolution is going to change how our public services are delivered to unlock hours of productivity in UK hospitals
The NHS is a recurrent issue in the UK, shown by its centrality to the Brexit campaigns and the current Conservative leadership election. Besides this political uncertainty, however, the NHS is continuously facing severe staff shortages, scarce access to resources and an ageing population that threatens an increased strain on services.
The NHS’ Five Year Forward View expressed a need to “get the most out of the taxpayer’s investment” and for this to be delivered, in part, through a productivity growth of at least 1.1% a year for the next five years. For this goal to be achieved, though, we need to change how our public services are delivered.
The current NHS hospital facilities are hindering optimum productivity. The recent Mace Group report outlines that four in 10 public sector workers stated that they were unproductive for more than two hours every working week because of their workplace environment.
The report further expressed the need for innovative hospitals by arguing that if the UK’s 237,000 adults’ nurses in acute, elderly and general care were to work in innovative, productivity-enhancing hospitals, they would gain back a total of 25m hours every year. This equates to adding 13,500 full-time nurses to the NHS workforce.
Why are hospitals hindering productivity? Well, despite the NHS spending over £6.5bn on its estates and facilities, they are still building new hospitals around the 1962 Hospital Plan for England. Subsequently, UK hospitals are outdated, and despite recent reports such as the Naylor Review emphasising the need for change, the NHS continues to fall behind.
In competitive markets, companies are incentivised to either innovate or fail. In healthcare, new devices, technologies and treatments can decrease the costs of some provision and increase health improvements for patients, but the motivation to modernise isn’t as prevalent.
It is the healthcare systems that fail to innovate that will struggle to meet rising expectations of patients and will lose control of healthcare spending. NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens argued: “In order to be able to continue [current performance], we are going to need to ensure that we have the right capital investment. So that our frontline staff have modern equipment and facilities with which they can productively operate.”
Innovation, along with capital investment and higher skills, is the underpinning drivers of productivity. Subsequently, there is an urgent need for the NHS to modernise and adopt new practices.
The United States is leading the movement to innovative with productive hospitals, as shown by the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. This project was built as a NASA-inspired ‘command centre’ to manage its patient flow, which in turn increased organisation levels, amplified productivity and maximised patient numbers and access.
How can construction technology increase productivity in the NHS?
Currently, more than 95% of data on a building site is either lost or not recorded, meaning contractors are building new facilities from scratch, repeatedly. These facilities are being loosely constructed around the 1962 plan, but due to different construction companies building the hospitals, not one hospital is built or looks the same.
New construction technology, such as construction project management software, enables structures to be created by a standardised set of components that incorporate significant amounts of feedback from end-users into the next iteration of the design. This essentially means the facilities can be tailor-made for their users by innovative digital blueprints that lead the construction process by ensuring collaborative access to current plans, documents, tasks and defects for the whole of a project team. In turn, this can provide an extensive overview of the supply chain, manufacturing processes and on-site requirements from the outset.
This means hospitals can be manufactured following the same blueprints from previous projects. Plan-Radar, for example, bundles all information on project status, construction documentation and defect management for you, not only saving valuable time after completing the project but also during the checking process.
As a result, the standardisation of hospital builds can be incorporated into a growing rather than stagnant process. That should not only speed up the delivery and increase the quality of the building, but also enable trained healthcare workers to perform efficiently in the new purpose-built facilities.
The tech revolution finally happening in construction means structures that are being built will inevitably be different in the future, designed instead around the user with space and environments optimised. Changing how our public services are delivered can tap into the hours of unlocked productivity in the UK’s hospitals. Not only can software improve construction by standardising the build process, but these platforms can also increase the bottom line, making these hospital projects more affordable and allowing excess, much-needed capital to be reinvested back into the NHS.
These spaces are paramount to optimising the productivity of the workforce and improving the future delivery of the NHS altogether. Construction firms working in the public sector now need to find tech platforms that are designed to tackle output issues, speed up build times and increase the quality of these projects. Because when you’re building the next wave of productivity-enhancing hospitals and clinics, you need to be using the most innovative tools available to get you there.
Sander van de Rijdt
Co-Founder and Managing Director
Tel: +44 (0)20 396 629 06