Ensuring Compliance of Victorian-Era Buildings for the NHS Through FM

Episode 6

Facilities Management Podcast


About this episode

Warren Duffy, Head of Estates at Manchester University NHS Trust, explains the challenges associated with maintaining buildings of varying ages while detailing how playing amateur rugby has helped to build a happy and trustworthy on-site culture.


Matt (Host): Hi everyone, welcome back to the Comparesoft Podcast. Great to have you with us as always.

Today, our guest is Warren [Duffy]. Warren is head of Estates at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust. Warren has worked with well-known companies such as SPIE and started his career as an installation electrician where he worked on projects in theatres, airports, and data centres.

Warren has worked for the NHS for over 10 years and has progressed from Estates Operations Engineer to Engineering Manager and now as Head of Estates. So, it’d be great to get his take on facilities management.

Welcome to the show, Warren. Thanks so much for coming on. How are you doing?

Warren Duffy: Afternoon. Very well. Thank you for having me.

Matt: Amazing. Well, perhaps you could just tell the listeners before we dive into our questions a little bit more about what you do specifically in your role.

Warren: Yeah, sure. Head of Estates for Manchester University Foundation Trust at the moment. I’m based at North Manchester hospital. It’s a mix of very old Victorian building stock, some newer buildings that are about three years old, and some [that] are about seven years old, and ultimately is managed the maintenance and the engineering team on the site. Making sure that we’re complying with all the statutory requirements on the estate’s team for the building fabric and the engineering systems. Supporting project teams. Supporting clinical teams. Supporting the operational teams.

The site’s got a massive redevelopment project at the moment, I think it’s valued at between £500 and £600 million in today’s money. So, we’re really trying to support the team to deliver that as well to get a new hospital and get rid of all the Victorian stock as it were. So, the old adage, if you don’t know, two days are never the same, it’d be really up for this site. So really diverse, complex, fully in-house delivered hard FM services. I’ve been trusted to handle that service at North Manchester.

Matt: Well, let’s jump straight into our questions. And the first one is, how do you go about setting a good facilities management culture?

Warren: Yeah, good question. Culture. I think when we talk about cultures, I can’t help but think about my old rugby days back in the day when we played rugby. I think probably take a lot of other things from being a younger guy coming into senior teams in rugby into how we approach stuff now. It’s an honesty thing; inclusivity. The NHS is very big.

I’m very personal on workforce and developing people. Really passionate about people before I think about anything else. So, developing relationships is part of how I think about culture and people. Not just within our team [but] also speaking about the clinical teams and everyone else around the place. Try not to think too much about hierarchy. So yeah, there’s a hierarchy, there’s a structure within the department and on the site. But I think it’s kind of, treat everyone the same. It’s important that that’s not just a term, it’s something that we show as well on a daily basis that we’re all in it together.

Probably just base everything on values as well. Listen to people, speak to people. Give everyone the opportunity to put things forward. Again, the key for me is not just saying it, it’s actually doing it in practice, as well. So, you have the cultural bit is a massive part of it.

My role on the site, we took the site on about 18 months ago, from another trust. Part of my role was building a bit of a vision, building a new team, and as part of my role was selling that dream, as well. So, part of that is based on values. Where do we want to be? How do we get there? What can people get out of it as well, in terms of career development or progression on site? So, culture, I can’t help but think about people when I think about probably any industry, hopefully.

Matt: Yeah, the traits of an excellent manager. I think that’s probably what most people would say.

Warren: I hope so. I hope so.

Matt: And so, what’s the best way to plan for facilities management activities?

Warren: Yeah, I’m sure there’s some generic approaches to this in [the] industry. But if we think about the hospital where I am specifically, it’s very much I’ve been prepared for the things you don’t know about. What does that mean? So, when in healthcare estates, it’s making sure that there’s resilience across our engineering systems. Making sure there’s resilience across the staff, whether that means that the staff are available because we’ve got a contracted resource. Documenting how we’re going to do all this as well.

So, obviously, a lot of strategies. But again, if we think about the engineering team will have a medical gas plan or have a lift plan, we’ll have an electrical plan, we’ll have a water plan. It’s making sure everything we do in the plan, we can deliver. It’s hard to stress them systems as well, whilst being cognisant. It’s a live hospital site. So, it’s documenting everything that you should be doing, evidencing everything that you are doing, risk assessing the things that you’re not doing, quite possibly. So heavily governed area where I work in the NHS, and it’s just making sure that in terms of the plan, we’re delivering everything that we set out to and everything that we say we’ll go into.

Matt: Yeah, and then we were speaking about management and going into that a little bit more. How do you think facilities management teams should go about driving appreciation for maintenance teams across the business and particularly with top management?

Warren: Yeah, I mean, it’s probably a common theme from the first question is about the people. So, I make it my mission to get to know people. One of my first questions is, when I meet people, you’ve got to [ask]; how are they? How are the family? Do they have kids? All that type of thing. So, you get to know people. I think you build honesty. You build a culture; go back to culture. You build that culture where in terms of appreciation, where thank you or just giving someone a text of thanks or just letting them know that you’re being genuine. Let them know that you’re being authentic with your appreciation for them.

In an ideal world, I would love everybody in our team to have a lot more money on a monthly basis, or on a yearly basis and show me appreciation that way. I genuinely would love to do that. I’d love to get everyone through universities or colleges or whatever their academic aspirations are. I hope you’ve got a good track record in doing some of that as well.

Ultimately, I think it’s the authenticity of giving someone thanks. So, whether it’s a very, very senior director to me or a very, very senior manager to a maintenance team. It’s [asking], where does that appreciation come from? If it comes from the heart, – it sounds a bit cheesy – but if it comes from the heart then it’s genuine. They know it’s genuine because the culture is right. I think that’s the main thing. I would really love to thank the team I’m managing in a lot of different ways. I really would. I think it’s that genuineness, I think for me.

Matt: How would you go about getting the higher management? How would you drive them to give that, thanks. Any specific ways of generating, maybe appreciate?

Warren: It might be them. Obviously, no signing off the pay rises possibly, I don’t know about it. We’ve been on a journey at North Manchester, where, because estate failures affect the clinical teams, it affects patients, it affects staff and visitors. We are very much all in it together. They’ve had no choice. Some of the senior people on-site, whether it’s in estates, facilities, or the clinical side. Again, we’ve had to understand everyone’s issues and limitations. I think they’re very much aware now of the challenges that we have as a management team, and then our teams. Our guys and girls on the ground, what they face on the coalface every day. They’re very receptive. There’s some really good initiatives in the trust and on the site as well where again, it’s a token of appreciation.

So, you can nominate people for, they call it a ‘wow’, which is, you’re amazed by someone’s achievement. So, you can nominate the highest-ranked person on the site as it were. You could nominate anybody for something that they’ve done, whether it was cleaning something up or just staying on a bit later at a weekend shift or just going the extra mile. The very senior management team on the site, I have a lot of interactions with them on a daily basis because of the dynamics on site. I feel their – you’re going to have to forgive me, i’m going back over the other questions – I feel their genuineness and authenticity. And when they say thanks to me, I feel that they mean it. When I interpret it to the teams on the ground, it might lose a bit of the impact and they might be filtered down. I’m fortunate the minute that I think the senior buy-in is there, and it’s very supportive.

Matt: Okay, and so moving on from that, then, what’s the best way to implement an effective facilities management plan?

Warren: Again, thinking where we are now where we’re highly governed. So, it’s the monitoring of the plant, the monitoring of the activity or the actions around the plant. Life would be better off I think of the ideal world. The NHS, it does some amazing things, but probably in some of the in-house services. It might be a little bit behind the curve because our focus is different. But when I think of industry and I think of some of the technologies and I think of your cavern systems and the digitalisation. The way that the world is moving at a pace now. I think capturing something in a platform that tells a story for everybody. So, it’s the estate’s plan. Estates people know it, but it might not be very easy to translate to a clinical person, for example. We’ve got a cavern system at the moment.

It’s a bit of a catch-all. It’s a system that’s in development. We’re working with the developers. What that’s looking at doing is, it’s to try and give you a holistic viewpoint of FM, I guess, across the whole trust, because it’s a massive trust. It’s bringing it your capital, your projects, where you’re regulated through the premises assurance, but also where you self-regulate yourself to be clear, I guess where you are year-on-year.

Obviously, you help as you’re reactive, you plan maintenance. So, they’re building that system now and if you think again, about as best modules, compliance modules, and everything else. It’s gearing up to what an estate strategy should be, and that’s probably where the plan could be delivered. It could be visual, it could be transparent in the way that we all are now. It can be quick. We’re not waiting for something that could be a few weeks, no. We all want things yesterday. Yesterday, at best. Today will do.

Especially if you think about your web-based type of stuff as well, comes from systems. It’s accessibility from anywhere for everybody, whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s there, isn’t it? In terms of the plan, I’ve been on site from day one, since we took the site over last year. There’s been a bit of an ugly side of the estate’s plan, but I wish I had captured it. How would I have done that? I probably would have done it through some form of digital system. And the cavern system, I’ve got them and it is one that telling the story of the trust itself.

Matt: Well, talking about digital systems. That leads nicely into our next question. What do you think about software tools? Do you think they’re useful for managing management activities? I think you might have answered this one, but just to reiterate the point.

Warren: Yeah, no, absolutely. So as part of my studies, I’m doing a master’s at the moment. It looks more again, across the piece, across total facilities management. It’s not just estates. It’s on a hospital site. It’s trying to understand the concept where you can move one model to any site. The common theme there is, it’s about data. It’s about business. It’s about ensuring that. As part of my role, as well as making sure that our estates are not just an overhead, that we’re a bit more effective than that. We have a better impact of more visible impacts. I think that goes back into what I was saying where you need support from some of these digital systems to do that. You need the digital systems to plan and to make your life easier, better risk management kind of side of things. A bit easier as well. I’m hoping. I’m from an age where all I’ve ever known is probably digital systems. I wouldn’t actually know how to run a department without one.

Matt: Right, so what about spreadsheets then? What’s your take on using them? Do you think they still have a place?

Warren: There’s probably two sides to that, which is the general consensus and then which I think my opinion is. My opinion is, some of the NHS, national submission-type stuff, which is heavily embedded with data. It’s very powerful data. It’s data to drive probably billions of pounds worth of investment if you really think about it. It’s data that you can use in terms of more locally, operationally, as well for functionality of the site risk, etc. That’s published from NHS England in spreadsheet form.

I know they’re working their way through different ways of moving forward with technology, absolutely. But it’s still there. I hate to confess that I love using spreadsheets, but it’s not the future. It’s too clunky. It’s too heavy. It’s the old thing, again, about data. It’s what you put in, what you get out. And you basically put a lot of stuff on a spreadsheet, and the best you’re going to get out of it is when you put your own filters on. So, it’s very, very, very restricted. Here’s how we turn that, and then we’ll pull up into a cavern system to tell that story again. So, a spreadsheet, is very, very limited. I use the national stuff, which you’ve just referenced there.

Some of the stuff I deal with. So, we would do like big surveys, you know, say a six-facet survey or an M&A asset condition survey. We’ve got about 40,000 assets on the site. I’ve got the report in a PDF and the spreadsheet. It was great. I could work with it. But again, it was limited. I couldn’t take it to the next level. Directors, they don’t want to read pages and pages of what you think you’ve worked out. They need something a little bit more concise, and refined. Yes, spreadsheets. They’re all right. It’s probably more of a guilty pleasure, I think, just for them to reason. I don’t actively look to use spreadsheets if I can help it.

Matt: All right, and you’ve given us some amazing information already. But continuing on with that, what are your top three tips for our listeners on effective facilities management?

Warren: This probably could change daily, I think. I think I’ll stay true to my values, which, as an FM manager, I might be naive in saying this, but I’m hoping I stay true throughout my career.

Always be compassionate with people. I talk about authenticity and being genuine, but I mean it as well. Always be compassionate. The world’s a tough gig. Works tough. There’s loads of demands on people. Always be compassionate. Always look after people.

Sometimes when I get home from work. I think one of the other bits of a second piece of advice I’d probably say always looks after yourself. It’s often. The way I approach things is, I probably do think about myself towards the end of my thought process. Always look after yourself. Always stay true to yourself. You sometimes wish, and I do. I sit in meetings and think I wish I had said that. You don’t always have to speak your mind, but try to communicate what you think because in a room full of people, you’re probably right. You might be the only voice thinking something different, but you might be right. So that doesn’t mean shout and scream it, but stay true to what you think. You’re going to get things wrong but just try and get your opinion out there somewhere.

I’ll probably try and not be as intense for the last one. It’s ‘always carry a tenant paper’. I think is probably my third bit of advice. Because the amount of times I walk through the hospital and I think I’ve got my phone I’ll take a picture or I’ll use my notes on the phone, and my phone battery goes. Yeah, always look after people, look after yourself, stay true to yourself. Always carry a pen and paper, but no doubt them three things will probably change if you ask me tomorrow.

Matt: All right, well, some top three tips there. Quite different from the normal ones we get so that’s nice. And so, wrapping it up then what’s your favourite saying or quote on FM for our listeners?

Warren: I got some advice. I’m thinking in the place I work or anywhere in the NHS, really. Where again, it’s heavily governed and someone from the very, very, very top said to me, don’t let the governance get in the way of getting something done. You can interpret that any way you want, but the way I see is it’s almost empowerment to get the job done and mop up the paperwork later. I think it’s really good thinking in healthcare because that bit of advice might stop somebody of ill health from going a certain way. Equally, it’s having trust in yourself to make that risk assessment, “Can I just get the job done and we can mop it up later?”, I think.

Yeah, don’t let governance get in the way of getting things done. I think you’ve got to really self-check yourself on that one. I think, generally, one of my favourite sayings, and not only goes into the rugby thing, but it goes into cultures as well. It’s about, you can have an amateur environment, but you can have professional standards. You might not have the best of something, but you don’t need a certificate to try your best, is that kind of thing. Work with what you’ve got and give everything. I’ve probably told you that I was very much an amateur rugby player, but the coach demanded professional standards. I think that my ethos is, irrespective of where we are, there’s nothing stopping you from having them professional standards. So that’s what I’d say if it can link into FM a little bit.

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Warren, you’ve been an amazing guest and you’ve given us some really fantastic information and some great answers there. Thank you so much again for being on the show.

Warren: Thank you so much for your time. Take care guys.

Matt: Thanks to all of you for being with us again. We’ll see you on the next episode. Cheers!