In recent years, the health service in the UK has significantly improved the use of its land estate resources, with unused and surplus space declining by 39% since 2008.

However, our fifth NHS Estates Efficiency Review recently showed that the estate surplus of 4.8% represents 1,306,000 sq m of space. This loses the opportunity to save £1.5bn, which could fund an estimated 260,000 major front-line operations.

The review demonstrated that the best trusts operate their estates relatively well and 20 of the most efficient trusts operate at just under 100% efficiency. However, average trusts still cost too much and the least efficient trusts waste resources. Six of the least efficient trusts have up to a quarter of their space unused, which could provide opportunities for housing developments.

With the overall NHS budget deficit estimated at £30bn by 2022, more must be done to create savings and improvements.

We have achieved savings for three NHS Trusts through effective procurement of estates facilities management and operational service that total £60m savings over the contract’s lifetime. Supported by this experience, these are the measures we believe should be put in place to achieve more effective healthcare delivery:

  • Less efficient trusts should partner with stronger ones to enable the sharing of best practice;
  • Clinical and leadership teams should be aligned within trusts to ensure the estate is geared towards long-term functionality;
  • NHS organisations should embrace new operating models and strategic estates partnerships, to work with private sector partners in order to drive better performance;
  • Estate and financial teams in NHS organisations should be aligned to improve efficiencies and realise savings;
  • Low-performing assets should be disposed of to cut costs, and estate teams should embrace change and be ruthless in operating contracts and internal developments;
  • NHS organisations should look for opportunities to integrate with public sector partners.

Implement these core steps and the NHS will be well on its way to achieving the potential £1.5bn saving.

Conor Ellis is global head of health at EC Harris.