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HEALTHCARE & HOSPITAL FACILITIES


BETTER ACCESS TO SMES


It wasn’t long ago, though it seems like a lifetime,


when the Government presented its spring budget, which initially provided in the healthcare


sector with some optimism. Here, Julian Fris, Director, Neller Davies


discusses its effects on small businesses


in the healthcare sector.


Plans to provide an additional £325m for NHS Sustainability and Transformation, coupled with an extra £2bn for social care over next three years were well received in some quarters; however, even then, it was perceived by others to be a sticking plaster, covering the need for more fundamental change in approach.


As we know, providing more cash isn’t always the most appropriate and long-term solution. Innovation and enterprise most certainly is. That budget, whilst it was challenged immediately, was especially significant for its mixed messages around enterprise and the role that small and medium businesses play in our communities. From an NHS estates and facilities perspective, the increasing role these can play in supporting our hospitals and care-based establishments cannot be understated.


These are challenging financial times for the NHS - that’s why it’s really important for care providers to enable better access to the market, especially now. Small and community- based businesses will not survive without access to local markets, which sit at the core of our communities.


Right now, the outsourcing of non-core NHS services largely sits with the big players. If you take catering as a sample group, we’ve seen fewer independent caterers popping up in recent years with an increasing trend of smaller players merging with, or being acquired by, bigger caterers or facilities management companies.


We are seeing more high street retailers like Pret, Subway and Greggs, entering the healthcare food market. According to Plimsoll research, larger catering


58 | TOMORROW’S FM


companies in the UK have grown by 8.2% since 2006 whilst there has been no overall growth of smaller firms who have less than £2m annual turnover.


Risk aversion, which is a real issue in some sectors, limits the choice for the NHS hence we end up with big companies as they are often seen as the safe bet. Being more altruistic and encouraging SMEs will breed more innovation, buy-in etc and allows more bespoke solutions rather than oligopolistic constraints.


A healthy sector needs a good mix of established larger players with smaller independents snapping at their heels. To redress the balance, we introduced something called the ‘Operators Choice’ model into a couple of our projects - this has been well received by customers, clients and suppliers.


“WE ARE SEEING MORE HIGH


STREET RETAILERS LIKE PRET, SUBWAY AND GREGGS, ENTERING THE HEALTHCARE FOOD MARKET.”


It is a pretty straightforward concept. We offer bidders tendering opportunities in the healthcare sector. Whilst big businesses are not discouraged, because they attract customers and revenue, we ask that 25% of the total offer be provided by independent traders such as local SME’s, social enterprises or co-operatives.


The main operator is responsible for the management, pre-vetting (i.e. HACCP and DBS checking) and service standards. This gives smaller independents access to contracts, venues and buildings they’d never usually get a chance to see, along with the watchful support of more experienced providers who have better ‘back-office’ capability and risk profiles. It creates an environment where the SMEs’ passion is showcased as well as providing the larger players with access to entrepreneurs and innovation, and a concession fee or a fair profit share for their effort.


The concept works for clients in multifaceted venues such as hospitals, as well as universities and colleges, who can all benefit from giving local community-based businesses access to their venues.


Greater flexibility around non-clinical services will ultimately benefit patient care now and in the future.


www.nellerdavies.co.uk twitter.com/TomorrowsFM


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