Across the UK, the healthcare landscape in towns and cities is transforming as the emphasis on delivering accessible and community-centric services intensifies.
Throughout this phase of our Towns of Tomorrow campaign, we have explored the importance of health on the high street, delved into the challenges and opportunities this presents, looked at the indispensable role of key workers and the importance of creating accessible housing as well as the significance of life sciences in shaping this evolving healthcare landscape.
To kick off our Healthcare focus, we were invited to join the authors, the NHS Homes Alliance, to contribute to their new white paper "Delivering NHS Homes" following work with Community Health Partnerships to provide key worker housing at Finchley Memorial Hospital.
Homes for NHS Staff is such an important issue for the NHS now – especially in terms of supporting their staff retention and recruitment drives. The lack of decent, genuinely affordable homes to meet the needs of staff has such a huge impact. It is crucial that we 'path clear' to remove barriers to enable the delivery of these much-needed homes on NHS land.
HEALTH ON THE HIGH STREET
High streets have long been synonymous with shopping and leisure, but the importance of integrating healthcare services into these urban centres is increasingly recognised.
However, the realisation of this vision is not without its challenges.
To shine a light on the challenges and obstacles associated with embedding health services within our high streets, we hosted a panel of leading public and private sector experts in a roundtable discussion.
As we debated the barriers and brainstormed possible solutions, some important Do's and Don'ts emerged:
- Take a Bottom-Up and Top-Down approach - Marry together 'on the ground' needs and strategic objectives – both are essential.
- Know your Locality - Know your high street. Understand what is important to the local area and the local community and what role the high street plays.
- Understand Need - Do your research into population health. Understand the area; what health inequality challenges need to be addressed? What is the specific 'need' that this high street could help to meet?
- Know the Stakeholders - Understand your area's key public and private stakeholders and engage with them. Be aware of their compatible services, the estate they control, and their medium to long-term objectives.
- Create a Locality Blueprint - The above 'Do's' will enable the scoping of a high-level proposal for your high street that can be developed with Stakeholders and used to drive the consideration of options.
- Explore Public Sector Funding - Talk to your local One Public Estate representatives to understand the different sources of revenue and capital funding available and the criteria to be met.
- Encourage External Challenge - A fresh pair of eyes can sometimes support 'blank sheet of paper' thinking and identifying opportunities and options for further exploration.
- Ignore the Community - They are the whole reason for considering health on the High Street. They must remain at the heart of everything from determining initial 'need' to exploring solutions for the future. Embrace the community and listen to what would make a real difference to them. Forge authentic and trusted relationships with community representatives and maintain an open and honest partnership working ethos to share problems and create solutions.
- Work in Isolation - Collaboration is vital to optimising outcomes. Identify key public and private sector partners from your stakeholder analysis. Identify a lead partner with the impetus and resources to drive the early stages of the project.
- Forget to Think Big - Whilst the reality of time pressures, resources, funding and politics will drive a micro focus, try to have at least one "Big Think Workshop" to discuss macro issues and optimum solutions based on a blank sheet of paper approach. There is nothing wrong with having a vision.
- Just Think About the Now - Whilst political terms of office and funding allocations often drive short-term solutions, try to think about the longer term. Model the status quo over a 25-year+ period and compare other preferred options to it. Build a strong case for change.
- Be Afraid to Ask for Help - Initiatives such as this are often complex and draining. Health and public service representatives have a day job that allows little time to focus on large, strategic projects. Think carefully about resourcing and the skills needed to push the thinking forward. Sometimes, an extra pair of hands can be impartial and unaffected by micro issues and represent a significant value-add.
MORE HEALTHCARE INSIGHTS
Within the Healthcare focus, we also shared thought leadership pieces, which included:
- NHS at 75 - the Role of Town Centres in Improving Health Determinants - In the week that marks the 75th year since the formation of the National Health Service, we took a closer look at the wider themes underpinning health across the country and how shifts in real estate can support better outcomes. Read it here.
- Housing with Care: Addressing the Needs of our Ageing Population - Montagu Evans attended the ARCO (Association of Retirement Community Operators) annual conference. This conference gave a great insight into the societal benefits that retirement communities can provide and the barriers preventing increased supply. Read the highlights here.
SUMMARY AND WHAT'S NEXT?
In an era where healthcare needs are ever-evolving, our exploration of the future of healthcare in towns and cities reveals a landscape rich with promise and potential. The realisation that accessible and community-centric services are essential has taken centre stage in transforming our urban healthcare environments.
From addressing the critical issue of keyworker housing to reimagining high streets as hubs of healthcare, our journey through the Towns of Tomorrow campaign has shed light on both challenges and opportunities. We've engaged with experts, stakeholders, and communities to chart a path forward.
As we move forward, it's clear that a multi-faceted approach is necessary. Our 'do's and don'ts' offer valuable guidance – a roadmap to navigate the complexities of this transformation. We must marry local needs with strategic goals, engage communities, and think not just for today but for the long term. Healthcare in Towns of Tomorrow is a collective endeavour involving collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to improving the lives of those we serve. We invite you to join us in continuing the conversation as we continue to shape the future of healthcare.
Next, our Towns of Tomorrow campaign will focus on transport and infrastructure. Sign up here for updates.