The chronic staff recruitment and retention crisis in the NHS may seem an unlikely topic in a forum dedicated to the construction industry – but this new and refreshingly pragmatic government initiative looks like good news for the sector. At a time when new investment is sluggish to say the least, a new white paper signals major house-building projects on the horizon.
The new thinking begins with the recognition of two key issues. First, that the lack of decent and affordable homes for key workers is a ‘critical part’ of the NHS staffing crisis, in the words of Perspicio consultancy CEO Sarah Hordern. And second, that NHS trusts own a considerable amount of unused land. Rather than sell it off for short term cash-flow, the paper argues that it makes far more economic sense to keep the land and negotiate partnerships to develop it and provide homes in the right places and at the right prices for NHS staff.
The NHS Homes Alliance is a collaboration of public and private sector organisations – and its aim is to use capital from a range of sources, such as pension schemes, to support developments. The government’s response is to set up a ministerial taskforce led by junior health minister Lord Markham and housing minister Rachel Maclean.
In Constructionnews.co.uk on 27th June 2023, Lord Markham commented,
“I welcome the paper from the NHS Homes Alliance which highlights several recommendations to address the issues that have so far prevented the NHS delivering key worker accommodation at the scale and pace that is required.
I will lead a joint taskforce with the housing minister, Rachel Maclean, to work through the barriers identified and support the NHS to streamline delivery of this much-needed accommodation to support its vital and valuable workforce.”
The white paper points out that existing public sector procurement rules slow down deals and can increase costs – and, as Sarah Hordern says, “We must be able to recruit and retain the staff we need without a lack of decent, affordable housing being a barrier”.
While it’s impossible to say whether the scheme will survive a general election, it is encouraging to see the government arguing for, “an opportunity to devise an efficient, cost-effective procurement model that is robust, flexible and capable of delivering a people-driven approach”.