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The NHS needs construction to gear up now

What was apparent in the run-up to last week’s election is that the NHS is the same political football it has always been.

All of the main political parties were ‘bidding up’ the additional funding they would give the NHS if the got into power.

Money alone, however, is not generally regarded as being a viable solution to achieving an affordable, efficient service.

Fortunately the status of the Simon Stevens’ Five Year Forward View paper is regarded as the strategy all can sign up to.

His three-pronged solution – which involves greater efficiency, reduced demand and more balanced funding – is intended to achieve an affordable, efficient NHS, and one which services a healthier general public.

Each of these deliverables will be the subject of new initiatives, revised policies and, in some instances, imposition on persons and businesses.

Be prepared

While we can’t predict the ultimate format of these changes, the construction industry needs to be ready to provide solutions that help the NHS deliver its efficiency requirements, whatever they turn out to be.

Sector experts are well aware that much of the low-hanging efficiency fruit throughout the health service has been picked.

“Many NHS trusts are sitting on redundant stock”

Leveraging utility cost savings has been on the agenda for the past five years and there has been substantial streamlining of non-frontline heads of expenditure.

So what more can the NHS be doing?

In these post-recessionary times, we are experiencing the return of realistic prices for redundant fixed assets.

This is particularly true of brownfield sites across the UK.

With the new government likely to continue looking to use redundant land and buildings for the purposes of housing, NHS trusts are presented with an attractive opportunity.

Many are sitting on redundant stock across their estates; liquidating these assets would result in a three-fold benefit.

The sale of disused space would generate capital receipts for the streamlining of NHS services, but more importantly, the trusts would save on associated operational and overhead costs.

While it may be tempting to wait around until the dust from the general election has settled, inaction from the construction industry in terms of engaging with the health service and advising NHS trusts is only likely to lead to slower change.

The industry must play its part in driving our economy forward.

Roger Pulham is director for health at Gleeds

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