HEJ’s Editor recently caught up with Director and Head of Profession, NHS Estates, at NHS England, Simon Corben, to discuss some of the highlights and challenges of his six and a half years in post to date, and his thoughts on the future.
In six and a half years as Director and Head of Profession, NHS Estates, at NHS England, Simon Corben has faced some considerable challenges and a pretty full in-tray. To date his agenda has included directing the central NHSE Estates & Facilities team and the national EFM workforce in their rapid response to COVID-19, guiding the EFM workforce in delivering on Lord Carter’s Productivity programme, working with the New Hospital Programme team on England’s biggest hospital building programme yet, and revitalising the NHS standards and guidance programme. HEJ editor, Jonathan Baillie, recently met up with him.
Simon Corben became Director and Head of Profession, NHS Estates, at NHS England, in April 2017, after 14 years in the private sector, where he advised the NHS, and grew and managed a team of property and clinical planning consultants and analysts. Immediately before joining the NHS he spent six years as Business Development Director and Sector Leader for Health at Capita Property and Infrastructure. He has an MSc Degree in Construction Project Management from London South Bank University, and – when we spoke by ‘Teams’ in midNovember – he explained that while his professional and educational background is centered around this field, he has become considerably more well-versed in engineering and facilities management as his career has progressed.
One of the first things I wanted to discuss was the current healthcare estate backlog, which (based on the latest ERIC returns), sits at over £10 bn. I asked how big a task addressing this is for the healthcare EFM workforce across England. He replied: “Its massive, and indeed the figure is so big now that people really can’t get their heads around it. We’ve thus spent significant time changing the narrative, shifting to a far more focused view around the impact of infrastructure failure, over and above simply ensuring that we’re meeting our obligations under the Health and Care Act in key areas such as fire, electrical, and water safety, and a clean, fit-for-purpose environment. The infrastructure failure we’re seeing can significantly disrupt our clinical services. Our stakeholders understand that, and articulating this is a really important message. You’ll now hear me talk considerably more about this than about backlog maintenance per se.”
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