ASK THE EXPERT: Successful property projects

Robin Harris

Robin Harris, client services director for property management specialists, ECO Integrated Property Solutions (ECO IPS), explains the importance of excellent project management when undertaking maintenance, repairs and refurbishment in operational care facilities.

Any maintenance project requires planning and management but when it takes place in a care home setting the need for consideration and sensitivity also play an essential role.

Two-way communication is absolutely key. It is essential that all staff are fully aware when anyone is due on site and how long works are scheduled to take so they can reassure residents what is happening and when. Contractors must be made aware of any operational issues, requirements or behaviours of individual service users with a clear and conclusive induction given so they understand the nuances of the property and have all information around safe working for example, asbestos.

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It is important to consider the service users and their care when planning work. Some residents may have set routines that must be followed in certain complex care facilities. Continuity of staff can be a way of providing consistency and building trust between service users and contractors.

Flexibility is also required and contractors must be aware they may not be able to access all areas whenever they need to. Potential down time is a possibility and further shows the need for continuous communication with site staff. In some instances, issues may arise that mean work must stop.

Ensuring that anyone working on some sites has full DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) clearance is also recommended for peace of mind and the safety of residents. Any requirement for chaperoning must be confirmed at induction stage and prior to any contractors entering site to begin works.

Be aware that residents may react to change and something as simple as re-painting a room can affect them. Work with your property management company or project manager to reduce the risk of adverse reactions to change and allow for this in the schedule of works, keeping communication open with individuals.

Should a home suffer the loss of services such as hot water and heating the Care Quality Commission may need to be informed and an audit into how long it takes to restore may be implemented. This highlights the importance of having a comprehensive supply chain available to ensure service levels are met.

Adopting a routine of ‘record, manage, document’ is a discipline we recommend across the board as recording and management are the most important factors of any programe of works, especially in an industry as highly regulated as the care sector. It is critical to the success of the project and the continuity of the business. For example, there is no point in having a water risk assessment completed if there is no record of it having taken place. There is also a requirement to ensure the significant findings are actioned and the risks managed within the time scales set by the assessment.

Statutory compliance is an essential element of property management in all sectors, therefore, conclusive planning and organisation is critical. The best way to ensure statutory routine works are complete is by using a work management system to ensure orders are assigned to contractors and tracked to completion.

Consider the use of a central and online document storage facility for maintenance documentation which will cut down on paperwork in an industry where is it very important to store documentation relating to the care of individuals. A central point containing easily referenceable property data will save time and reduce costs, delivering benefits across the company.

Continuous maintenance and improvement of care facilities contribute to the health and well-being of its residents. An outsourced solution takes away the pressure of property management from the employees who can concentrate on their core role of providing care.

Success lies in consideration, communication and compliance.

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The author Lee Peart

1 Comment

  1. Great pointers on the practicalities of managing properties with unique occupier interests. Getting the correct balance between a very secure property but yet still allowing sufficient fire evacuation where applicable is also key, and will require effective communication to all contractors on site.

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