Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



“Our services are not back of house”

Alison McCree, National Secretary of HEFMA, urged delegates at the 2017 National Leadership and Development Forum of the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) in Belfast (April 5-7) to speak up and challenge the Carter Review’s summing up of Estates and Facilities services as ‘back of house’.

An ‘on-the-spot’ interactive vote revealed a majority of the audience agreed with McCree’s view that EFM staff are often more ‘front-of-house’ than the frontline staff themselves. Porters, ward hostesses and cleaners can have more patient contacts than many clinical and nursing staff; they are the linchpin of services, keeping the hospital operating and as such they should be given more importance and invested in.

McCree’s session focused on improved financial control and she started by emphasising the importance of the ERIC data, saying the NHS is lucky to have this data and: “If it’s wrong it’s because we are getting it wrong.” It is vital to know, understand and use the data because it’s impossible to manage the service and how well it is being delivered if it can’t be measured. “We are information rich. We don’t use it to the best of our ability and we need to.”

In the Northern Branch, HEFMA generated a template for what should be included in the food costs when completing an ERIC return to ensure all Trusts could be compared on a like-for-like basis. Only one Trust did not take part and this Trust is now the ‘odd one out’ showing an unrealistically low food cost figure.

At McCree’s Trust – County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust – further data is gathered through the Friends and Family Test, which asks patients to rate the service provided and offer additional comments. This initiative has generated thousands of comments, analysing which provides more insight that may be used to improve services.

McCree is now moving into a new role as Managing Director of a new company, wholly owned by the Trust, in an initiative that should ensure the Trust is competitive within local markets, for instance, employment markets and maximising assets the way any private operator would. This step will also enable more control to be exerted over procurement, with staff ordering capability reduced.