Delivering the NHS Estates and Facilities workforce action plan

Published on : 9/18/23
Reading time : 3 min
  • The EFM workforce is one of the NHS’ greatest assets however, it also presents one of its most significant challenges. An aging workforce, a lack of diversity and the need to develop future-proofed skills all present pressing issues, as well as significant opportunities. Fiona Daly, National Deputy Director of Estates at NHS England, discusses these challenges and what, as senior EFM leaders, we can do to address them.

    The NHS Estates and Facilities Workforce Action Plan was published in June 2022 and sets out how EFM leaders can meet the ambitions of the NHS People Plan and People Promise and develop a robust and resilient team aligned to the future needs of the NHS. The plan is focused on the areas which can make the biggest impact and is split into four key strands: 

    1. Developing people 
    2. Health & wellbeing 
    3. Equality, diversity and inclusion 
    4. Building the next generation.  

    In our latest Expert Series videos, we explore these themes with Fiona to understand how things have developed since the plan’s publication and what is next for the NHS EFM workforce.  


    Developing a more inclusive workforce 

    There has been a significant amount of work done to address the gender and ethnicity balance within the NHS, however within EFM this continues to be a challenge. As Fiona states: ‘We’ve never had a more diverse workforce in the NHS, but it doesn’t seem to be translating into Estates and Facilities.’  

    Part of the challenge Fiona outlines is the ceiling at band 4 for gender equality. NHS England is looking to address this balance, especially by trying to attract more females into leadership roles.  

    Within Estates and Facilities, NHS England will shortly be launching their aspirational goals which will take the principles of the ED&I Plan and the Long-term Workforce Plan and embed them within the EFM community.  

    Health and wellbeing 

    Sickness absence rates for estates and ancillary staff remain high – with many EFM employees also experiencing higher than average absence for physical health reasons. With the additional impact of the pandemic, NHS England also recognises the ongoing challenge mental health has on the wellbeing of the workforce.  

    There are several wellbeing initiatives at a local and national level. Access and engagement are some of the challenges – many EFM employees are without a smartphone or a laptop/computer. Getting the right information to the right people at the right time will be fundamental. 

    Future proofing Estates and Facilities skills  

    Delivering safe, fit for purpose clinical environments requires an engaged and empowered EFM workforce. Developing people and addressing the skills gap is a core element of NHS England’s Action Plan. Fiona highlighted several core areas for future skills development:   

    1. Digital & technology: for example, exploring AI applications and digital twins present exciting opportunities. Getting the data together to help make people and systems safer. 
    2. Net Zero and the Green agenda: developing the skills to adapt and operate the estate and help the NHS reach Net Zero by 2040.  
    3. Data analytics: one of the key skills required within the EFM workforce – the ability to look at data, understand it, gain insights from it and communicate it to the relevant people.  

    Fiona does also highlight the need to maintain some of the critical skills the NHS already has. Several systems will continue to be used for years to come – so retaining and transferring that knowledge will be crucial as a transition to new technology occurs.   

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