Our best deserve better

12th July 2023

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Our best deserve better

Key Takeaways

  • A consortium of health and care leaders and development specialists, including Prime, has published a new whitepaper exploring the critical role of key worker accommodation in solving the health and care staff shortage.
  • Many trusts and care providers simply cannot wait for the outcomes of national programmes – they need rapid and proactive solutions to tackle the complex recruitment and retention challenge constraining our health and care services.
  • Hyve by Prime is a viable, proven key worker solution, currently delivering key worker accommodation by removing demand risk for the NHS and creating new homes at pace.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan is a welcome commitment to begin rebuilding the healthcare workforce. In it, the stark reality of the retention and recruitment challenge facing the NHS is laid bare:

NHS trusts are reporting a staff shortfall of 150,000 that will rise to 360,000 by 2036 unless steps are taken to solve the issue. [1]

A combination of complex factors has seen many health and care staff leave their roles and potential recruits pass up a career in the sector entirely. Whilst the Plan recognises the importance of the physical working environment on staff wellbeing, it doesn’t acknowledge that having somewhere comfortable, convenient, safe and affordable to live is also paramount in meeting staffing challenges. However, a new report, A People Driven Approach: Delivering NHS Homes [2], emphasises the importance of suitable homes for health and care workers and how tackling a lack of availability is critical in solving the crisis.

But can the housing needed be developed rapidly enough to help solve the UK’s health and care staffing crisis?

Shared ambitions for a better future

Amid a turbulent economic environment and pressurised working conditions, NHS staff face many challenges. Struggling to find quality and affordable housing should not be one of them. If the three priority areas within the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan of train, retain and reform are to be successful, then the development of quality, affordable key worker accommodation will be paramount to this. If the existing or future workforce is unable to live in quality accommodation, in close proximity to their place of work, they are going to be unable to take up training positions, will be unhappy to remain in their jobs and disinterested in considering reform.

Developed in partnership with NHS trusts, ICBs and other leading health and care development specialists, the NHS Homes Alliance whitepaper: A People-Driven Approach: Delivering NHS Homes [3] highlights the shared ambitions of organisations like Prime to invest in the physical environments that support the recruitment and retention of critical health and care roles.

In the wake of its publication, the government has announced the creation of a cross-departmental NHS and private sector task force led by Lord Markham to explore avenues towards developing affordable key worker housing. One of the key propositions within the whitepaper was the development of key worker accommodation on NHS sites and retention of the freehold interest to protect the long-term value and flexibility of NHS land.

For some, the time for inaction has passed

While these ambitions are to be applauded and the outcomes highly valuable, waiting on the recommendations of extensive research and test-and-learning pilots is simply not an option for many health and care providers who instead need urgent solutions to a worsening crisis.

Key worker accommodation can potentially transform a trust or care provider’s long-term recruitment and retention strategies – helping them to achieve their targets today while also supporting their long-term ambitions. Being able to offer flexible, affordable and high-quality accommodation to key workers not only encourages critical workers to join or stay, but it also provides a space that enhances their quality of life and wellbeing at a time when this has never been more important.

However, from experience, Prime knows that theorising about the development of key worker accommodation and being able to deliver and manage these projects are very different realities.

Even when decisions are made to expedite progress, the challenges of navigating complex accounting, planning and funding processes have severely curtailed the development of key worker accommodation to date. The three-year wait to gain planning consent for the development of just 130 affordable housing units at Finchley Memorial Hospital highlights the extent of the delays and risks associated with these developments.[4] Not to mention the catastrophic and costly consequences for health and care providers who fail to solve this challenge at pace.

Change is achievable…and fast

To help tackle the recruitment and retention challenge and bring the health and care system back to balance, Prime has spent several years leveraging our expertise to develop, test and action a proprietary key worker accommodation model that addresses this increasing urgency while still complying with NHS governance.

Hyve by Prime is our key worker solution that addresses the high demand for desirable, affordable and bespoke key worker accommodation close to hospital sites. Benefitting from flexible tenancy lengths that meet the changing lives of residents, Hyve developments are built with sustainable, energy-efficient and functional building designs to create comfortable and safe spaces for health and care professionals to call home.

Operating as a not-for-profit business, Hyve enables health and care providers to deliver transformation at pace because it meets the needs of the NHS by adhering to all of their accounting and budgetary restrictions. Because Hyve fully manages rental agreements and residents, it removes the demand risk for the NHS.

This ready-made solution has already provided much-needed affordable homes for key workers in Dorset, and Prime can quickly roll out the pre-designed homes nationwide. It is a critical step towards solving the recruitment and retention challenges that hinder progression and improvement for health and care providers.

Flexible futures

The changing demographics of our population are demanding greater adaptability from our health and care services. In response, they will need to revise their recruitment and retention strategies to meet these shifts, and because of these changing needs, Prime recognises that flexibility must sit at the heart of every key worker development. Whether it’s accommodating more student practitioners or providing secure accommodation for families, these developments must be designed to meet immediate needs and proactively support the evolving recruitment and retention strategies of the future.

Developing key worker accommodation is certainly not an easy challenge to solve. Still, against an escalating staffing crisis, health and care providers must take the bold steps needed to deliver these vital pieces of infrastructure, with the potential to not only help them meet today’s challenges but that ready them for tomorrow’s too.

For more information about Hyve by Prime visit hyvebyprime.com

[1] NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, 2023

[2] A People-Driven Approach: Delivering NHS Homes, NHS Homes Alliance, 2023

[3] Ibid.

[4] NHS estates company defeats Planning Court challenge to grant of permission for residential development on part of hospital site, Local Government Lawyer, 2022


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