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Comprehensive asset data is key for healthcare providers looking to manage and operate their facilities after expiry in a safe and effective way.

But securing 20 to 30 years worth of asset information brings with it multiple challenges.  Ian Blackman explains what they are and how to overcome them. 

THE Private Finance Initiative (PFI) was the British government’s flagship public investment programme of the 1990s. Enabling private firms to contract with the government to build and maintain, often over decades, key infrastructure, by 1992 nearly 800 deals had been signed with a combined value of £55 billion.

But criticism and controversy was common. Complaints  included the rigid contract terms – famously illustrated by the school forced to spend thousands each year to keep its playing-field grass below 1 inch.  One headline of the day was: “Under PFIre”.

Today, PFI  – which was exported around the world – is back in the spotlight. The bulk of contracts are expiring from next year, with assets due to be handed back to the contracting authorities. Over 100 of these are hospital and healthcare facilities which private finance companies will be handing back to Trusts and Health Boards.

Preparing for hand-back involves multiple considerations. Central amongst them is the data and information about the asset that will form part of the handover, alongside the physical assets.

Included within this are operating and maintenance and user manuals, health and safety files, asset and equipment registers, testing and maintenance records and condition surveys, as-built drawings and building layout drawings, inspection and testing reports, training records and mandatory compliance records.

A smooth and timely handover of this asset information will be key to the expiry transition – ensuring the undisrupted running of what are typically critical, 24/7 services, full compliance with regulations, and ensuring the long-term value of the assets is not impacted.

And by using this opportunity to ensure that effective asset management procedures, standards and tools are in place, healthcare providers will be setting themselves up for the long-term.  How? By having in place structured and trustworthy estates/asset data, which supports the high availability of their assets, a smooth hospital operation, and establishes the foundations for future ‘digital estates’ capability.

Handback – the asset data challenges

PFI handback is a complex undertaking in all areas – including in the handback of the asset data. From our experience, healthcare providers are likely to face multiple challenges. These include:

  • The available asset information lacking fidelity or not always being trustworthy
  • Gaps in information about the assets – or very limited available information
  • Information being held in difficult to access formats and across different systems (CD-ROM, shared drives etc)
  • Knowledge & understanding of the assets being locked with individual team members

Reflecting the working practices of the time, some of the information  is likely to be in ‘analogue’ form – unstructured, contained within large PDF files or paper files, difficult to search and possibly incomplete.

If it has been captured and maintained in digital form, it may not be clear what systems are being used or how the data is structured.

Contracting authorities need to understand what data sets are required and in what format, then extract and validate the required handback data information. They also need in place a plan to address gaps in information/data.

As the Scottish Futures Trust details in its 2023 report,  Information and Asset Data Transfer at Project Handback, it is easy to underestimate how difficult and time-consuming all of this process is.

Cohesive: How we can help

Using our teams’ decades of experience supporting organisations across the public and private sectors with more effective asset management, we have developed a PFI Handback Rapid Readiness Assessment.

Designed to ease the handback burden on healthcare teams, it supports NHS Trusts and Health Boards to find the answer to key questions about their asset information and identify gaps or issues.

Spanning the asset data, the organisational strategy and the technology systems used to manage it, our check will find the answer to questions such as:

  • What are the data/information requirements within the project agreement?
  • How is the existing data structured? Is there a data scheme/model? Does it include medical equipment as well as core asset plant and equipment?
  • Is there evidence to support that the data is being kept up to date?
  • What are the technologies used by the PFI Co for asset management?
  • Who controls the technology?

It will support early identification of any issues in data quality or asset condition that could mitigate risk for all parties later in the expiry phase.

It told the OGP teams what they had, where it was, what condition it was in, who was using it and how it was performing.

Why us?

In establishing the data needs of any organisation it is vital that trusted and experienced advisors are on board. They need to both understand and appreciate current working practices but also have the knowledge and experience of mapping them to new digital/enterprise asset management working practices.

This is precisely what I and my team have done over the past twenty years – both for the public and private sectors. For me personally, this has included the NHS New Hospitals Programme where I helped create the ‘digital approach’ for the programme and am currently supporting the Interim Delivery Partner on the Connected Data Environment strategy.

As a team, we have also supported data integration and data strategy development on many flagship non-healthcare programmes. These have ranged from  the implementation of the HS2 connected data platform and the National Highways Business Information Framework platform, to the development of a tailored data integration platform proof of concept for the Office of Government Property (OGP).

The latter provided a single route into trusted, reliable data about all the buildings and lands which the OGP owns, occupies and uses. It told the OGP teams what they had, where it was, what condition it was in, who was using it and how it was performing. In addition, all this functionality was available within 2 to 3 clicks from the home page.

While the sectors are diverse, the principles and concepts are the same: All these clients recognised the value of rigorously maintained, structured, reliable asset information and new technologies to support them in answering everyday questions about their assets, driving efficiencies, and meeting their business objectives.

We work always within the best-practice framework of the international standard ISO 19650 series along with ISO 55000 which dictates how built environment data should be structured and classified. Infact, we have been at the forefront of the development of these standards, with multiple members of our teams (technology and advisory) involved in their establishment of the PAS 1192 Part 2 and 3 along with BS 1192 Part 4 which provided the foundation for the ISO19650 series. This means we fully understand how to implement them and the outcomes they are designed to achieve.

This portfolio of work means we recognise in full the challenges involved in PFI handback – but also the long-term value of executing it well.


For more information on the support we are providing for PFI information and asset data transfer, please supply brief details below and one of our team will get in touch:

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