Expert Panel: Facilities Management

Following an 18 months unlike any other, Health Business talks to Donna Brown about hygiene standards, sustainable healthcare, hospital food and fully integrated multi-service provision

The best healthcare facilities provide world-class services to patients, visitors and staff. Whether it be through the security of the building, the food on the menu or how best to incorporate intelligent solutions, ISS prides itself on creating environments where people want to work and deliver great care.

We have posed a number of questions, looking specifically at some of these areas, to Donna Brown, managing director at ISS Healthcare, and share her responses below.

In what ways have the last 18 months changed the way in which hospital decision makers view cleaning and hygiene? And how, as a company, has ISS changed to meet growing demand?

Our Placemakers have been the bedrock of the front line throughout this pandemic. I am immensely proud of the contribution everyone has made; the rest of the healthcare team have seen just how important the healthcare cleaners are in keeping patients safe and the environment clean. I believe we are not just seen as support services anymore, but as a critical part of a hospital’s infrastructure standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the clinical teams.

As an organisation we were there to support the NHS, not just with our Placemakers but with the technical excellence only a global business such as ISS can provide. As members of the National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021 team we had already been working closely with NHS England and NHS Improvement.

We had developed our own AssureClean model that suited the rise in demands just perfectly. As other parts of the business saw a reduction in demand we were able to re-train many of our colleagues from other sectors in the special demands of healthcare. Many of these have since chosen to remain with healthcare as they recognise what a rewarding career this can be.

What is ISS doing to implement the recommendations from the recent Independent Review of NHS Hospital Food?

Two members of our team were honoured to be asked to sit on the Senior Review Panel, so their thoughts were reflected in the overall recommendations. This meant that when the report was finally published, we were quickly looking at how we could work with our client NHS trusts in implementing the eight core recommendations and the subsequent checklist for catering managers and chief executives.

This planning is continuing, and we would like to see some of our sites be included on the ‘Exemplar’ listings, helping others raise the standards for every patient.

We agree with the need for investment in training to support catering staff as well as infrastructure such as improved facilities and technology. Wherever possible we have invested in our ISS Training Academies, which can provide much of the necessary training, but I would urge everyone to consider investing in the future of all the facilities management teams.

As lockdown ends in July, people will be returning to a degree of normality by going out more and seeing more people face to face. In a hospital setting, with heightened busyness and stress, how valuable are support services in creating an enjoyable hospital experience for patients and visitors?

We have a saying in our business, People make Places and our purpose in healthcare is to provide Places that Care. The support teams are vital to making any hospital safe and welcoming, be that by offering a courteous welcome when you enter; by offering nutritious food and plenty of hydration whilst on the ward or assisting on your visits for treatment and removing the waste that is generated throughout the day. Facilities management team members are there for you at every touchpoint throughout the day.

Throughout the pandemic hospitals have not been encouraging visitors for obvious reasons but when anyone has had a need to enter the buildings our teams have been there to ensure everyone’s safety. I think that the wearing of PPE, especially the face masks for visitors, will continue for the foreseeable future and you can be sure that we will still be working hard to keep the place clean and safe.

Perhaps one positive to come from the global pandemic has been an increased awareness of sustainability. How can intelligent solutions help NHS organisations take business sustainability to the next level?

Healthcare offers great opportunities for the development of technology, from enhanced communication with the Portering team, through to electronic meal ordering for patients. We offer bespoke packages to meet every customer’s needs, all designed to reduce our carbon footprint and reduce on waste.

As a global business, we can also tap into research and development from around the world and are keen to introduce new ideas as soon as we see their worth. An obvious current development would be the introduction of robotic cleaning, allowing cleaning methods to be applied that guarantee significant reductions in potential infections.

Technology and sustainability form two of the eight recommendations in the Hospital Food Review, so clearly there is a focus there, but we are also excited to see the development of the Green NHS Team, and the focus that is being given to these topics from the top down. It is only if we all pull together on these issues that we will see any significant progress.

Patients and staff alike require the security of knowing that they are safe in the hospital building. Therefore, how important is it for an NHS organisation to have a clear overview of risks to security?

Safety is vital in all healthcare environments; from transporting patients and monitoring visitors to guarding hospital grounds. Every trust that we work with takes this very seriously and have detailed risk profiles that cover every conceivable possibility. Major incident planning also helps recognise and mitigate many of those risks and we are there to play our part.

Our dynamic security services help create a comfortable setting – no matter the environment – so patients, visitors and healthcare professionals feel safe and secure. This may be simply to provide a helping hand as a visitor has become confused and lost their way or walking a nurse to their car in the early hours of the morning to providing a reassuring presence in a busy A&E unit on a Saturday night. The security team play an essential and often underestimated role in a hospital’s daily life.

Integrated care:
What are the benefits of a hospital having just one outsourcing partner?

At ISS we believe in a fully integrated multi-service provision, it offers a single point of contact for the customer; a single line of management and the ethos of all pulling together as a single team. One team offers a flexibility that disjointed services cannot,and allows for integrated training and development opportunities for all our Placemakers.

How does this relate to the healthcare environment? Well ISS Healthcare is made up of experts at supporting the patient journey. We share our customers’ purpose in becoming healthcare providers of choice and creating healthcare environments where people want to work and deliver great care.

One outsourcing provider allows for investment to be considered across the whole service provision and, of course, our Placemakers make the difference each and every day. By bringing in other providers who may not share that vision and those values would disrupt the core purpose of what the support services should be there for.

Donna Brown is managing director of ISS Healthcare. Donna has over 36-years’ experience of working in healthcare. She sat on the companies CERO group throughout the pandemic and, from the outset, played an active part in the development of new National Standards of Healthcare Cleanliness 2021. She continues to be part of the NHS Improvement team and a standards guardian.