The role of real estate in the NHS crisis

5 Feb 2018

Policy area: Healthcare, Tax & Finance

In light of the publication of the government’s response to the Naylor Review of NHS property and estates on 30 January 2018, Jonathan Murphy, CEO of Assura, writes about the role of real estate in the NHS crisis. 

Rarely a day goes by without new reports of a different driver behind a new NHS crisis. Winter flu is the latest on a long list of sobering stories; what is clear is that there is no silver bullet to ‘solve’ the NHS’ complex web of challenges.

Each constituent part of the NHS has a role to play in ensuring that the system has the capacity to handle increased pressure, whatever the season. This is particularly the case in primary care, where the ability to deliver more services closer to home ultimately means less pressure on hospitals. However, decades of underinvestment in premises has left an estate that isn’t up to the job.

Four in ten GPs say their surgery building is not fit for purpose. Many are working from terraced houses and bungalows which simply cannot offer the integrated, community-based care the NHS is pushing for.

A recent report from the independent think tank, Reform, concluded that “investing in the primary care estate is key to facilitating a sustainable healthcare system.” It’s a point universally acknowledged. Last year’s Naylor Review estimated that investment in NHS buildings should run to at least £10bn and the Chancellor’s latest budget paid heed, with a commitment to a cash injection into NHS buildings and infrastructure.

The Naylor review highlighted that private investment must play a critical role, particularly for primary care estate - and industry is on board. Assura and the rest of the healthcare real estate industry stands ready to provide significant support to help deliver this vision of an NHS estate fit for the future. Last year we joined forces with our colleagues across the primary care real estate sector to outline the potential for more than £3 billion to support the development of the estate, providing funds for as many as 750 state-of-the-art primary care centres. Equally, Assura has a significant stake in the success of the primary care estate - having raised £300 million to invest in GP surgeries around the country.

We continue to work with our colleagues, as chair of the BPF Healthcare committee, to lead a dialogue with the relevant policy makers and stakeholders. We look forward to continuing this cooperation to ensure the UK’s primary care estate is up to the task of helping our GPs to relieve just some of the pressures faced elsewhere. There are no silver bullets, but estate can help to fire the starting gun.