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How the sharing economy can help to fill the NHS black hole


Recently the UK’s department of Business, Innovation and Skills released a report looking at the role of government in supporting the sharing economy.  The report featured recommendations such as providing a government stamp of approval for reputation and supporting an industry body for the sharing economy.

Arguably the most interesting aspect however was the suggestion that government should be a much more active participant in the sharing economy, both as a seller and buyer of resources.

It was especially interesting as the Dutch sharing marketplace Floow2 had recently launched a dedicated healthcare platform, with a number of Dutch hospitals signed up to it.

Floow2 have already made a big splash in a wide range of sectors in the B2B space, but with my interest in healthcare innovation, I’m particularly keen to monitor their progress in healthcare.

Royan van Velse from Rijnstate highlighted how his hospital had a lot of very expensive equipment that was only being used 4-5 weeks of the year.

When you look at it in those terms, you either have that expensive equipment standing idle for large chunks of the year, or you look to allow others to make use of it.

That this can make extra money from an under-used resource soon caught the attention of the Rijnstate management.

Suffice to say, this is quite a shift away from how assets are currently managed, and Lieke van Kerkhoven from Floow2 reveals that it has taken a couple of years to get the first project off the ground at Rijnstate.  It undoubtedly requires a degree of bravery to shift the approach.

It’s interesting to note that the resource sharing is not just limited to equipment and facilities but also human resources and talent.  In true inside-out innovation style, Rijnstate were also renting out un-used capacity in their sterilization department (for instance).

Could this work in the NHS?

The Health Service Journal revealed last year that the NHS is currently sitting on around 1.5m square metres of either unused or under-used property.  It goes on to reveal that the current facilities management function in the NHS takes on a largely operational role, with little in the way of entrepreneurial encouragement to prod them into action to make better use of their facilities (and make a bit of extra cash for the cash strapped NHS).

That discovery led the King’s Fund to release a paper highlighting the huge opportunity this treasure trove presented to the NHS if it could be better managed.  Indeed, this real estate has been valued by NHS England chief Simon Stevens at a whopping £7.5bn.

“We will back the innovators, challengers and agitators nationwide who are tearing up traditional business models and creating new jobs across the country,” said Matthew Hancock, the Business, Enterprise and Energy Minister, upon the release of the BIS report last month.

Consider that the challenge made.  Now it’s up to the government to meet it.

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