Healthcare property fit for the 21st century essential to modernise NHS

27 Jan 2015

Policy area: Healthcare

The BPF has responded to Ed Miliband’s 10-year plan for the NHS by urging all political parties to commit to providing a healthcare estate “fit for the 21st century” amid growing concerns of chronic underinvestment in the UK’s healthcare infrastructure.

The BPF said that the modernisation of both primary care facilities, such as GP surgeries, and accommodation for the care of the elderly would be essential if the NHS is to continue to meet patients’ needs and deliver services more cost effectively in the long-term.

In his speech today, Miliband pledged to deliver 8,000 more GPs and 20,000 nurses. While the BPF welcomed this, it has stressed how important it is that these professionals work in buildings that are fit for purpose. 

Approximately 4,000 of the 7,962 GP surgeries in England and Wales are considered by medical professionals to be unfit for purpose. Replacing these with larger, modern surgeries offering a broader range of services including diagnostics and social care would confer a range of patient benefits. The BPF said around 1,300 new primary care buildings would be needed, but that these would generate efficiency savings from other parts of the NHS as it would allow patients to be treated locally rather than in a more expensive hospital setting.

The BPF said that the property industry stood ready to support the modernisation of the UK’s healthcare infrastructure, with UK institutions such as pension funds having earmarked £3bn to invest in the sector. However, the recent restructuring of the NHS has meant that virtually no new surgeries have been commissioned in the last few years.

In addition, the BPF pointed out that a concerted effort to encourage the development of retirement and care homes would be vital if the NHS was to meet the challenges posed by the growing number of elderly patients. A recent report from Knight Frank showed that only 2.8 per cent of all homes currently under construction in the UK are retirement homes, despite the fact that over 65s are expected to make up almost 23 per cent of the population in the next 20 years.

The rapid development of more retirement and care homes would ease the burden of the elderly in hospitals, allowing NHS resources to be allocated more efficiently. Insufficient care in the community means more than 1,000 patients a day are forced to remain in hospital once their clinical care has ended, at a cost of £250 a day for a hospital bed.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “Better quality primary and elderly care facilities will hugely reduce the burden on hospitals and A&E departments which, as we are all aware, are suffering from over-crowding and lack of resources. The property industry stands poised to invest in these sectors and to help government and medical professionals to deliver 21st century healthcare. What is needed is for politicians of all parties to recognise that we face a growing crisis in our  healthcare estate, and to set out a strategic approach to meeting this challenge.

“It is all very well pledging to deliver thousands more GPs and nurses, but it is essential that they work in premises that are fit for purpose. If we can unlock investment in the retirement homes sector, this will also help efficiency, as fewer elderly will have to be admitted into hospitals and can instead be cared for in more appropriate settings.”