Mace report calls for ‘construction revolution’

International consultancy and construction company, Mace, says its latest analysis suggests the NHS could be boosted 'by the equivalent of 13,500 new nurses' if there was a ‘construction revolution’ that could enhance productivity in the UK’s hospitals.

Its new report, Insights 2019, 'Transforming society: Using construction as a catalyst to deliver change', authored by associate director at WPI Economics, Steve Hughes, a former analyst at the Bank of England and head of economics and social policy at ‘think tank’, Policy Exchange, argues that – beyond significant on-site productivity increases and cheaper, more sustainable construction – ‘the adoption of innovative engagement and production approaches to buildings’ design and construction could deliver a revolution in the delivery of our public services’.

By enabling ‘more user-centric design and earlier supply chain engagement and product solutions’, the report says hospitals, schools, and offices, ‘could be built in a way that improves productivity and delivers better outcomes for society’. It calls for faster adoption of new technology and processes across the sector, and outlines a proposed model for product development that ‘could be introduced to enable that to happen’, based on the ‘Technology Readiness Levels’ originally introduced by NASA and adopted by the automotive and aviation sectors. 

Researchers from Populus polled 500 people, including public sector workers – to establish the extent to which introducing new design, construction, and operations approaches across the public sector could improve productivity. They found that four in 10 public sector workers felt they lost over two hours a week due to unproductive workplaces, and two in 10 over four hours. Mace says public sector productivity is ‘mired in a pattern of low growth’, with the average annual public services productivity growth rate between 1997 and 2016 just 0.2%. The company added: “Among the public sector buildings to have already realised the benefits of productivity-enhancing design is the Wrightington Hospital Orthopaedic Centre in Lancashire, where repeatable rooms and standardisation will decrease surgical downtime improve the patient experience. If the UK’s 237,000 adults’ nurses in acute, elderly, and general care were to work in new productivity-enhancing hospitals they would gain back 25 million hours every year – equivalent to adding 13,500 full-time nurses to the NHS workforce.”

Mark Reynolds, Mace’s CEO, said: “The next generation of construction technology and processes will change how we build hospitals, schools, offices, and other parts of the UK built environment – and in turn doctors and nurses will have more time to treat patients, and teachers to focus on educating our children. To make this a reality, we need a new mindset around innovation and product development in construction. We need to try to understand our end-users more, and work to deliver our projects in a way that responds to their needs; to do that we need to change how we design, manufacture, and assemble our buildings.”

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