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HefmA National Conference & Exhibition opens its doors

[h5] Ian Daccus, Chair of the London and South East branch, opened the 17th HefmA National Conference & Exhibition at the Hilton Brighton Metropole Hotel on Thursday 15th May by welcoming delegates to the international-themed event and reminding the audience of Estates and Facilities professionals of their vital role in supporting and enhancing the services the NHS provides.[/h5]

After thanking the National Council and H2O Publishing for their meticulous planning and hard work in putting together the programme for this year’s event, and announcing that the charity for this year is Kent-based Dandelion Time Charity, Daccus went on to say that the guest speakers had been selected with the international theme of the conference in mind – “or almost Star Trek,” he said, in the case of Will Whitehorn, the man behind the Virgin Galactic space programme. He also reminded delegates that Kate Adie OBE, a popular household name known for her work in reporting on events such as the Tiananmen Square, the Gulf War and  Kosovo, would be divulging some details of her experiences that hadn’t previously come to light in the afternoon session.

In chairing the first session Mervyn Phipps, also from the London & South East HefmA branch, introduced Will Whitehorn as “the man famous for plucking Richard Branson from certain death “, who then went on the make the Virgin Galactic dream a reality.

Innovation culture

Whitehorn based his keynote address on how to get an innovation culture to work in an area such as healthcare. He pointed out that the NHS is “a full industrial structure, not just a service”, and the great difficulty is that it’s dealing with people’s lives on a daily basis. “When even top doctors can’t agree if statins are good or bad,” he said, referring to one of the top news stories of the morning, “how on earth are they going to agree on what makes a healthcare building fit for the next generation?”

He held Branson up as an example of an individual who can shape an organisation by creating the desired culture. “At Virgin it has always been very much a ‘can do’ culture,” he said. Branson, who had to find ways of overcoming his dyslexia and ADHD to succeed, had always thought about things in a very lateral way, he explained, and when Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells – the first record released by the Virgin label – became the biggest seller of the 70s Branson was already thinking ahead as to how he could build the Virgin brand.

“He wasn’t embarrassed about doing things that didn’t work,” said Whitehorn. “There wasn’t a fear of change at Virgin, whereas in the NHS it’s a constant fear.”

The morning concluded with a presentation by Jon Huddy, a Consultant Architect with DLA Freemanwhite, who gave delegates an overview of some of the projects he had been involved with in the USA where ED departments needed to get more capacity out of the existing space.

Solutions he shared included putting four gases into a single resuscitation  room to allow for increased capacity at the busiest times, keeping “vertical patients vertical” by using chairs or recliners, introducing ‘flex rooms’ (only 30% larger, but allows a second stretcher to be brought in at the busiest times) and the ‘super track’ concept whereby patients only use the space when actually being seen by a clinician, and ‘care arrival’ areas where treatment can be started immediately, with inner waiting areas so the patient is never ‘bounced back’ into the public waiting areas – “they are always moving forwards in the process,” he said.

Ultimately, he said, architects could come up with solutions but it required the right culture for people to follow through on the changes and implement strong communications to ensure a more positive experience for the patient.

Delegates broke for lunch in anticipation of the afternoon’s breakout sessions and Kate Adie’s keynote address, with yet more informative and thought-provoking presentations to look forward to on the second day of the conference.