Making best use of the estate in times of austerity


By David Brindley, Director, CIPFA Property

Change across the public services and the health service is unrelenting. Numerous health service reorganisations combined with the need to work together in partnership across the sustainability and transformation plan (STP) footprint mean that the need to understand the span and condition of health and social care property has never been more important. Understanding the span, value and condition of the local estate is key to developing an effective strategic estates plan which will assist local planning, helping organisations to make decisions on reallocation and rationalisation.

While many organisations have rationalised their estate, improved buildings and made significant savings, not all health and social care property is being used optimally. When the pressure to generate short-term savings is high, it is easy for longer term issues such as estates rationalisation to be moved onto the ‘too difficult’ pile.

At the same time, there is still a liability for backlog maintenance as properties deteriorate over time. Diminishing estates departments and maintenance budgets have resulted in fire fighting for repairs and maintenance, with very few organisations having carried out or commissioned property condition surveys to determine the future liabilities of the property stock and indeed the statutory obligations around compliance with health and safety legislation.

The recommended interval for condition surveys is every five years. Good accurate data should be collected regularly so that the impact of lower maintenance budgets can be fully understood, and remedial action taken before very significant investment is required. 

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