Reflections from IHEEM Healthcare Estates 2023

The annual IHEEM Healthcare Estates Conference, held on 10 – 11 October, once again proved to be a crucible for innovative thought and robust discussion around the evolving landscape of healthcare estate management. 

This year’s conference, brimming with insights and forward-thinking dialogues, provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in our sector.  

With over 75 different sessions being held each day, it would be impossible to take it all in, so below are some of the key takeaways that resonated with us and the broader industry narrative: 

  • Estates in the top ten NHS risks: probably no surprise, but kicking off the first-day keynote, Simon Corben, Director and Head of Profession of NHS Estates and Facilities, NHS England Commercial Directorate, confirmed that “estates sit in the top ten for NHS England Risk Register”. 
  • Maintenance Backlog Concerns: The spotlight on the towering maintenance backlog, with figures ranging from £10 billion to £20.5 billion, underscores a critical area demanding immediate attention. The reactive approach to maintenance has not only strained financial resources but also negatively impacted patient outcomes, as discussed by George Isles, our Buildings Director [link to video post]. 
  • Government Property Strategy Compliance: Compliance with the Government Property Strategy to transition towards a “smaller, better, and greener estate” keeps the reuse or build discussion at the forefront. What is clear is that this transformation requires a well-structured plan that balances financial constraints with sustainability goals. 
  • Estate Utilisation Enhancement: Utilisation, utilisation, utilisation. You couldn’t attend a session without the utilisation of space being discussed. Emphasising innovative designs, technological advancements, and strategic planning can significantly improve estate utilisation, aligning with patient-centric and sustainable objectives. AI raised its ubiquitous head as people look to make the best use of their space. 
  • Future-Ready vs Guideline-Driven Design: The slow pace of guideline updates like HBNs and HTNs contrasted heavily with the need for rapid evolution of healthcare estates to allow for innovative solutions providing modern patient outcomes. 
  • Innovative Approaches and Technological Integration: The embrace of automation, robotics, and digital technologies emerged as a consensus to drive efficiency, enhance patient care, and future-proof healthcare estates. Whilst these technologies are instrumental in navigating the complex landscape of healthcare estate management, especially amidst financial and operational challenges (look what robotics and automation have done for other industries), uptake is incredibly slow, with only circa 2% of UK hospitals utilising robotic technology for day-to-day non-clinical activities. Looking at the world leader in Healthcare, Singapore, uptake here is around 90%. Closer to home, Germany rates at 50%, showing the UKis some way behind in this area that can ensure resources can be diverted to carrying out tasks that at the minute simply can’t get done. 
  • Collaborative Efforts: A recurring theme was the need for a collaborative effort among various stakeholders. By fostering a collaborative environment, we can pool resources, knowledge, and skills to address the multifaceted challenges head-on, striving for a healthcare estate that resonates with excellence in patient care and operational efficiency. 

The IHEEM Healthcare Estates 2023 Conference was a melting pot of insightful discussions, shedding light on the critical aspects of healthcare estate management. As we reflect on these key takeaways, the path towards transforming healthcare estates into more efficient, patient-centric, and future-ready infrastructures becomes clearer. 

Your insights are valuable. Whether you agree with these takeaways or have different perspectives from the conference, we invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. Let’s foster a dynamic discussion to further our understanding of the evolving healthcare estate landscape.