Smooth operator

The Healthcare Facilities Consortium (HFC) is a specialist, not-for-profit company that provides software, information and management support services to professionals working in facilities, estates and related functions in the UK health sector and – increasingly – other business sectors too. Established in 1996, HFC is a wholly owned subsidiary of the NHS Confederation, the national independent body that represents the wide range of organisations involved in healthcare for the NHS.
To enjoy HFC’s full range of benefits, organisations become ‘Members’ of the consortium, and in turn play a significant role in shaping and developing the company’s range of products, services and activities. HFC has a small executive staff, all recruited from NHS organisations, with support operations being provided by staff at the Confederation’s offices in central London. The company has a Board of Directors that includes representatives elected by HFC member organisations.

HFC services
HFC works as an information and services ‘hub’, providing a link between a range of carefully chosen FM product and service partners and suppliers on the one hand and member organisations and their users on the other. The company also works in close association with a range of other representative and specialist groups involved in the health and FM arena, including HEFMA, AHCP (The Association of Healthcare Cleaning Professionals), IHEEM, and, of course, the NHS Confederation itself.
HFC’s fundamental role is to help NHS and similar organisations save money, time and effort in running their FM operations by:

  • centrally sourcing suitable software, information services and other management support services
  • setting up favourable deals with suppliers
  • championing relevant product innovation and development
  • communicating and promoting information about FM software, products and services available on the market
  • providing guidance and support with selecting and using FM software and products.

HFC also aims to help FM professionals in their day-to-day job and maintain their technical and professional knowledge by providing an extensive reference and information database on topical FM issues and a range of training, briefing and networking events. The HFC is to a large extent like a ‘membership club’ with services and activities provided for the overall benefit of its member-users. At the same time, though, the company is managed and run with a balancing ‘commercial’ culture – operating in a competitive marketplace as it does – and is committed to delivering the highest standards of client service and product development expected of any commercial supplier.

The website
As an information based consortium the HFC functions much of its activity through its extensive website that has recently been upgraded and is now managed by the in-house team using the Electos Content Management System. As an example of the type and breadth of information available the website contains an extensive FM Knowledge Hub that contains:

  • an active members only Discussion Board, that enables members to have online discussions with peers on the widest range of issues
  • the prime NHS Document Swap Shop containing around 230 health service policies, procedures, job descriptions and other useful documents
  • the leading NHS Facilities Management Benchmarking Club
  • possibly the most extensive external links library available within the NHS.

Software portfolio
On the software side of things the HFC manages the Crown Copyright Facilities Management software portfolio on behalf of the Department of Health. This includes:

  • Apollo-FM: a purely web-based facilities information system but with Windows-based management tools. Provided in conjunction with Premier Software Ltd, the product provides a wide set of functions for managing FM operations.
  • Eclipse-fm®: a comprehensive and very flexible facilities information management system, provided in partnership with Asckey Data Services. Designed specifically for the NHS, the system is operated on a Windows platform with key functions that can also be operated via the Web.
  • Credits for Cleaning®: this software application, operated with partner Pierce Management Services, was recently developed for the Department of Health specifically as a best-practice solution to help domestic services managers, matrons and ward managers plan, monitor and control cleaning operations, standards, productivity and expenditure in hospitals.

In addition the HFC offers an easy to use utilities management and monitoring package called Monitor and has negotiated an NHS specific deal on the industry standard design software package Hevacomp. As a membership service the HFC developed, with several of its member NHS Trusts, an Information System Evaluation Pack; this easy to use toolkit facilitates the analysis and evaluation of software systems through a balanced score sheet that has been proven through use throughout the NHS.
Having developed the NHS Best Practice Guides with NHS Estates the HFC now hosts and is developing these practical and functional guides in a range of different areas. When considered alongside the broader range of NHS issues covered by the NHS Confederation Briefings and other papers the HFC provides a one stop shop for Facilities Management information for those involved in the running and management of NHS Facilities.

Having run a very successful conference for over 20 years, through its predecessor organisations, this year the HFC Conference is entitled “Challenges and Opportunities – Providing Cost Effective FM Services” and is being held at Liverpool Hope University 12-13 September.
A new venue and changes in the conference programme to reflect feedback from previous delegates, the event promises to be thought provoking and challenging as well as providing a platform to review the range of FM information and related suppliers through the exhibition.
A range of workshops covering issues from health and safety through to environment and energy efficiency is supplemented by a key note address, annual members meeting and a plenary session addressed by Andrew Lloyd-Kendall, policy manager from the NHS Confederation. There will also be technical workshops on some of the software packages on offer.

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