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Planning tomorrow’s care today

Paul Djuric, Operations Manager at Urgent Technology explains how facilities management can safeguard the future of care in an ageing world

Recent research suggests that almost 90 per cent of local authorities in England will face a “crisis” in care home places within the next five years. Consumer group Which? said “urgent action” was needed because of a rising population of older people, with the number of 100-year-olds almost doubling since 2002. The Which? watchdog conducted a study in September this year revealing that England has 407,000 care home beds but would need another 50,000 by 2022 to meet the demand.

In addition to needing more care homes across the country, there will also be a need for facilities managers to run the growing portfolio. By ensuring the buildings are kept in ample condition, FMs working in the sector play a crucial role in safeguarding the ageing population when they eventually require this level of care.

Despite a funding injection of £1 billion into the care home sector this year, there are louder calls for a “whole new style of future care”, as Dale Birch, Bracknell Forest Council’s lead member for adult services, eloquently put it. As we know, the design and management of a building has an impact on the health and wellbeing of occupants, not to mention a bearing on mood and behaviour. If a care home is too hot, residents will be uncomfortable. If it’s too cold, the elderly may be particularly prone to catching a cold or flu, regardless of the season. Too noisy or too bright, and they’ll be hard pressed to get a good night’s sleep. Poor cleaning standards and mediocre hygiene practices can lead to a whole host of health problems, and potentially catastrophic results are likely to arise if critical equipment fails due to inadequate maintenance.

When FMs find themselves responsible for looking after the wellbeing of others, they are tasked with providing and maintaining environments that are not only fit for purpose, but also pleasant, relaxed, and secure places to be. In a care home environment, this is even more imperative, as the way a building is run and managed can make all the difference to a resident’s experience, recovery and overall bill of health. Every property needs to be effectively maintained, of course, but FMs who are in charge of looking after the buildings that house the vulnerable are under more pressure to see beyond the traditional parameters of FM and building maintenance.

A well-maintained facility is vital, but this isn’t just to improve residents’ experience; there’s a business case for it too. Failing to maintain the assets as part of a care home portfolio can be costly. Unforeseen equipment breakdown can far outweigh the initial investment. The down-time associated with this traditional approach can also negatively impact business operations, and sometimes even profitability. A planned and preventative maintenance strategy can prevent this from happening. When presented with business-critical, real-time data, FMs have the power to help care home managers make more informed decisions about their assets, avoiding unnecessary risk while improving reliability. This can help protect a care home’s reputation, which obviously goes some way to alleviating any worry for family members bidding their relatives farewell after a visit.

When you’re dealing with people’s lives, there’s no room for complacency. A planned and preventative maintenance programme serves to protect all the components essential in delivering an optimum level of care. Using technology as part of these plans can free up time because any information required to effectively manage a facility is presented in a heartbeat.

Thankfully, there’s now the technology out there in the market that allows FMs do what they do best – to look after the people within the built environments they manage.

For any FMs out there looking to improve the protocols and systems that relate to maintenance, there are several things to think about. The care sector is heavily regulated – and for good reason. Ensure you’re protected by implementing the appropriate systems to record compliance. That way, you’re covered should an incident occur. It’s far better and safer to store the compliance data online, so long as you have a robust IT system, complete with strong firewalls.

Tracking the performance of fixed assets can give you the insight required to understand why a particular piece of equipment needs frequent maintenance. There may be a more cost effective, reliable alternative – but that won’t necessarily come to light if you’re not able to conduct a trend analysis.

Care homes need to be kept warm for much of the year, whatever the weather. Understanding whether the building is using energy efficiently is key to preventing avoidable costs, and there are energy tracking devices that can help ensure you’re only paying what you need to for heating bills. The Internet of Things (IoT) can help FMs monitor and measure environmental factors, such as air quality, temperature and sound levels – factors of which impact the level of care on offer. Then there’s the technology that assists predictive maintenance; by which I’m referring to the tech that monitors the performance of assets, such as boilers, and which can determine the most appropriate time for intervention.

A good CAFM system should be easy to navigate and the real-time data should be presented in an easily-digestible way, so all stakeholders can understand what the data actually means. Data’s only useful if you can make any sense of it! This was a key driver in Orchard Care Homes’ recent decision to use eMaintenance+, a CAFM tool, to manage all reactive and planned maintenance tasks across its UK-wide network of more than 50 care homes. The beauty of such systems is that they can be tailored to your property’s needs, and the data can be presented in whichever way you choose – either email or SMS alerts if there’s a problem with any area of the built environment, or via business intelligence reports, dashboards and data grids if you want to see a snapshot of the bigger picture.

In line with the number of care homes that will be built over the coming years, there’s the opportunity for FMs to step into the driving seat and steer the way to good hard FM practices. This will contribute to the bigger picture of care home FM, offering quality of life for the residents, minimising disruption to their care and ensuring their safety
and comfort.

About Sarah OBeirne

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