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How a simple change to healthcare planning can revolutionise the NHS

As winter closes in and Christmas fast approaches, the NHS is facing a crisis worse than any seen before. Record demand and care services are stretching the service to the very limits. As society rapidly grows and ages, Trusts are struggling to adapt, and it’s clear that this isn’t just down to funding shortfalls.

Often the issue lies with business cases – the lengthy, three-stage process where Trusts apply for funding from the Government. As architects and healthcare planners, we have experienced first-hand how this rigid, prolonged process is delaying capital projects. We believe one simple change to this process could relieve some of the pressure from the system.

Planning for an Uncertain Future

This change would simplify the business case process to one single document and one single approval. A single document, although simple and easier to navigate, would not remove essential checks and balances. In fact, with sections of the document being ‘signed off’ as they are completed, this would therefore remove a lot of process repetition and save on fees. Furthermore, it would also retain the Five Case Model approach to ensure robustness.

Closer collaboration with the approving body is key to this process. This is similar to how Local Authorities are consulted prior to the submission of large planning applications. Acting as a consultant, the approving body would be paid for their time and would ensure the process runs more smoothly.

As architects and planners, AFL Architects is actively researching a practical and responsible route to implement this new system. We strongly believe this change would give the NHS some of the freedoms it needs to quickly and proactively plan for the future.

A History of Success with a Single Stage Model

This simple system has already seen success with the use of Business Justification Cases (BJC) for smaller projects. Therefore, this template would make an excellent starting point for a universal single stage business case process.

It’s time to revolutionise how the NHS approaches the provision of its services. Through a single stage process, combined with close engagement with specialist healthcare estate architects and planners, we can ensure that much needed NHS developments happen sooner. In this way, the NHS can continue to deliver a world-class healthcare service.

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