In recent months, the Health Economics Unit (HEU) has been supporting Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust on developing a case for the long-term provision of cleaners, porters and catering staff (also known as ‘hotel services staff’) in their hospitals.
HEU’s Head of Economics, Wayne Smith, and Director Andi Orlowski, were involved in the project, which sought to develop the options for the long-term future of Imperial College Healthcare’s hotel services, following 12 months of successful in-house delivery. Using the principles of anchor institutions, Wayne and Andi collaborated pro bono with the Trust’s facilities management team, Danielle Goldsack and Vanessa Eden, providing “an extra step up” in the quality of the resulting report.
Using collaboration to identify new ways of working
HEU’s experience in this area comes from years working with NHS trusts and with datasets that inform the evidence needed to develop cases, but also “our ability to scope the needs of clients, and clarify the overarching aim and objectives of projects,” says Wayne.
Danielle says: “When we weren’t sure where to go, they had great suggestions and were very enthusiastic. They kept us focused on the most important aspects of the project.”
How evaluations can help develop positive business cases and lead to successful projects
In this case, qualitative evaluations were used as the basis for the development of the review. The collaboration involved Wayne giving direction on whether certain types of data would be important and reviewing research materials, such as questionnaires, to ensure that they would capture the information needed.
The aim of the project was to assess the benefits of the different ways of working within hospital services, including identifying the economic and financial outcomes of insourcing staff.
Wayne adds: “One of the key things was to understand what evidence was needed to make decisions, and where there might be gaps. What were the most important elements of an impartial evaluation that they’d want to focus on? Our capability and experience helped the Trust scope out those kinds of needs.”
The importance of anchor organisations in benefiting local communities
Andi believes that organisations within the NHS behaving as ‘anchor institutions‘ is vital.
“It’s the role of an anchor institution to ensure employees get basic rights that affect those wider determinants, such as housing and diet,” he says.
“The knock-on benefits mean that it’s better for society as a whole. The idea of being an anchor institution should be important for all health economists, and for people who talk about integrated care and caring for their populations.”
Danielle cites the help HEU provided in understanding the value of these institutions, and the direct link and contribution that the Trust could make towards them, as a key factor in the collaboration.
Long-term impact of the collaboration
Vanessa believes that the impact of working with HEU extends beyond this project. “They really helped us to understand what anchor institutions were,” she says, “and the implications for Imperial College Healthcare.
“That is something that has helped me take that learning and knowledge further and apply it to other projects I’m working on within the Trust. That sustainable knowledge has been really helpful.”
Danielle adds that she appreciated the “much wider perspective” that HEU brought to the project. She defines the working relationship as “us telling them what we were thinking of doing, and HEU providing guidance and suggestions on how to evaluate and present the evidence. They helped mentor us through the process.”