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News columns have been filled recently with some significant healthcare soft FM contracts being awarded to ISS Healthcare. The company has been around since 1982 and has always had a fine reputation for service delivery and the ability to create strong customer relationships.
The latest announcement saw the Fulham Road Collaborative (FRC) awarding a new five year contract, worth over £100m, following an extensive market testing exercise. This was the second contract the Collaborative have presented to ISS, the first one ran from January 2012. The collaborative of NHS establishments along the Fulham Road in West London, and their associate hospitals include the Chelsea & Westminster NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, the Royal Brompton and Harefield NHS Foundation Trust, who together represent some of the world’s leading clinical facilities.
The new contract will see ISS extend their presence to include waste management, whilst still providing a wide range of services including healthcare cleaning, patient catering, portering and logistics, linen & laundry, reception and car parking. With the exception of laundry, all the services are self-delivered by ISS, something that makes them almost unique in the Integrated Facility Services market – most providers seek to sub-contract services that are not core to their own business.
Just as this award was announced South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust commenced their new Soft Services contract, worth an estimated £45m over the initial five years. The award was made through the LPP Framework and will see ISS providing Patient Catering, Cleaning, Linen, Logistics and Security Services across four sites, including the impressive new Stratford Hospital.
Both these contracts also separately market tested their retail services for staff, visitors and patients and again it was ISS who came up with the best proposals for the locations included.
The South Warwickshire award marks a return of ISS to the Trust as they provided services to them up until 2010. This is the second NHS Trust who have returned to ISS this year, closely following South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
So why is it that one of the largest collaborations and two other very different NHS Foundation Trusts decided independently to return to their former supplier - ISS? One of the main reasons is that ISS works really hard to fully understand the individual customer needs. The company recognises that every healthcare site is different: it has specific needs and serves its own community, be that at a local level or one that provides treatment for specific ailments. Because of this the service delivery has to be created around that need and every attention given to maintaining the highest level of service at all times.
For the last seven years ISS has conducted a global Customer Experience Survey, covering almost 50 countries. The on-line survey invites the customer to comment on a wide range of questions that, when put together, provides a deep insight into the relationship between the customer and the provider. This helps to identify where improvements can be made and, equally importantly, it allows for recognition of where things are also going very well. One of the questions asks “How likely is it that you would recommend ISS to a friend, colleague or customer?” This is known as the Net Promotor Score (NPS) and is scored from 0 – 10, where 0 means that you are “not at all likely” to recommend, and 10 means that you are “extremely likely” to recommend.
When all the responses are put together an overall NPS is calculated, this can range from -100 (where nobody is happy) to +100 (where everyone is completely satisfied). The principle is widely used and accepted as a strong measure of performance. Any score above +40 is considered to be world class. This year 91% of the customers of ISS Healthcare responded to the survey and together gave an amazing score of +75, up from the previous year’s +50. There was also a very strong endorsement in the management at local level, who are widely recognised as being proactive with the ability to make decisions to improve performance.
To bring this back to the day-to-day service delivery, the customer, i.e. the person responsible for the safe and reliable delivery of non-clinical services, needs to be sure that they are working alongside a team that really knows what they are doing and shares the same goal of providing the best possible service, each and every day. When they have ISS onboard, they know that this is just what they have.
An essential part of healthcare
It is far too easy to forget the critical role that the support services play in the smooth running of a busy hospital. The current terminology is Soft FM Services but we are really talking about catering, cleaning, logistics, security and associated services like switchboard, receipt and delivery, waste management as well as retail, be that for staff, visitors or even patients.
If these essential services were to be withdrawn the hospital would quickly grind to a halt with no clean linen for the beds, no sterile supplies to treat the patients, who will soon become very hungry as no meals would arrive at the ward door. Who would be there to answer the thousands of calls that are made through the switchboards? And what would happen to the mountains of waste that is generated in such a hectic environment?
These unsung heroes are there 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year as every patient makes their journey through the hospital.
Firstly, they may arrive by car which will be parked in the car park. It may be their first visit to the hospital so they may be unclear of where to go, or even be apprehensive about their appointment. This is where a car park attendant or security officer becomes significantly different to their counterparts on the High Street or Shopping Mall, as we should expect a heightened awareness of individual stress and the need to react swiftly when needed – if somebody is rushing to Accident & Emergency, the last thing they have on their mind is to remember to park within the designated bays and to display the correct ticket but it is something that should be taken in the stride of somebody trained to handle every eventuality.
Once the patient comes through the front door they may be met by a receptionist. They are still apprehensive, so a friendly face with a warm welcome goes a long way to allaying some of their fears. At the Royal Liverpool University Hospital there was a famous gentleman, George Wickham, who for many years, until his recent retirement, stood just inside the door and instinctively knew who needed assistance, or just a kindly word. His gentle approach was recognised with several awards from the Trust and his employers but when it came to the attention of a wider ISS audience George was crowned at the ISS Employee of the Year. A great honour as ISS employ over 500,000 people across more than 50 countries!
Once inside the hospital the patient may be required to be conveyed to X-Ray, theatre or other departments. This is where a hospital porter can help ease the journey, with comforting words and reassurance – the porter will have known that the patient required transportation because a controller received a call from the ward and instigated the instruction, either by radio or increasingly by using modern technology. Because of their global reach, ISS are able to share best practice from anywhere and IT systems that were originally developed in Singapore have now found their way into hospitals up and down the country.
Meanwhile, throughout the hospital, probably the second largest workforce behind nursing, the healthcare cleaning team are ensuring that all areas are being kept clear of dust and debris. A modern day healthcare cleaning professional is armed with an array of ergonomically designed equipment, again the result of research and development from across the globe. ISS were the first to introduce microfiber cleaning into the NHS and nowadays it is widely used in all walks of life.
For many patients the cleaner and the ward hostess are the frontline staff who they can confide in and perhaps exchange a few words with from time to time. The hostess stands on the ward as a representative of the catering department where another large work group ensure that a steady supply of food is provided for patients, staff and visitors alike. The Hospital Caterers Association, who celebrate their 70th anniversary in 2018, has a slogan that ‘Food is the best form of medicine’, and so it is. Good quality food, well produced and transported to the bedside depends on teamwork.
The Power of Three campaign, which ISS supports, brings together catering (the HCA), dietetics (the BDA) and nursing (the National Nutrition Nurses' Group) to help improve nutritional outcomes for patients. Together they ensure that nutrition and hydration is recognised as a crucial part of patient’s care plan, and that nutritious food continues to be available.
All this activity generates a huge amount of dirty linen and waste materials, all of which needs to be removed from site as efficiently as possible, so again the receipt and delivery team are there to ensure that fresh linen is available, that the provision cupboards are well stocked and all refuse and waste is sent to the correct destination, be that recycling, incineration or other. Reducing the level of landfill is something that everyone in the NHS is working hard to achieve and again companies like ISS are playing their part in developing better ideas.
If everything goes well, the patient will be ready to leave one day and their route back home will start with a return to the front door, perhaps by porter or under their own steam. Either way, it is to be hoped that they spare a little thought for all those unsung heroes who have made the whole stay possible.
ISS strongly believes that their teams play a vital role in the wellbeing of the patient and are proud to be the market leader in facility services for the NHS.