Implementing Sustainable Systems – Health and Care – may seem like a routine topic for a conference, but Fiona Daly from NHS Improvement brought it to light with her passion and commitment to change. In her own words, she said she joined NHSI because “I care. I care about the NHS, I care about people, and I care about our future.”

Fiona is National Sustainability Lead and EFM Workforce Lead/ Operational Productivity at NHS Improvement. That sounds like a mouthful. She works across the provider sector which amounts to 236 NHS trusts. This involves helping the NHS to meet its short-term challenges and secure its future which means meeting the NHS 2020 objectives. Her priorities are in quality, finance, operational performance, strategic change, and leadership and improvement capability. Even half of that would be enough for most people.

Her brief takes a strong steer from Lord Carter’s Review in 2016 on efficiency in hospitals and how large savings can be made in the NHS, but Daly and her colleagues must use a sports person’s phrase picked up the ball and run with it. She has 16 years’ experience in EFM (mainly hard FM) and sustainability as well has having worked in both the public and private sectors together with eight years in a provider trust.

Data-driven change and behavioural change

Fiona is far from overwhelmed by the task she faces believing that sustainability can respond. This involves data driven change, engagement with national and local behaviour change programmes, reduced Opex costs of £78 to £138 million, and driving behaviour to improve outcomes and reduce system demand. If that wasn’t enough she is also focusing on fuel poverty, air pollution, and food education programmes plus importantly measurable improvements in patient experience and public perception.

So, what gets her up in the morning? She replies: “I joined NHSI because I am driven to deliver impact. I love complex problems and helping to solve them. I know there is a huge opportunity, I believe sustainability responds to a number of current challenges.  I believe in the NHS and want to do whatever I can to ensure it is here in the future. 

Fiona passionately believes that the people in NHS Improvement are the key to success, but this isn’t just about estate managers and finance buffs important though they are. She emphasises that nursing plays a key role in how buildings are operated and used, and perhaps critically what items are bought and thrown away. She says: “Developing knowledge and expertise of our national workforce around sustainable development is key and will shape the future culture of our NHS and then adds, “the best things happen when we join together in our thinking and our approach.”

Yet Fiona also welcomes the hard targets NHS Improvement is setting the NHS. She says: “Our aim is to take £150 million off our annual energy, water, and waste spend – currently at £720 million by 2021 – reducing financial pressure on our clinical service. Our aim is to deliver healthy, resilient, sustainable healthcare estates.”

Fiona is tough on the whole area of organisational leadership. She says: “Organisations are to report annually on their progress toward sustainable development. Strong leadership in sustainable development is a demonstrable measure of a well-led organisation.”  She emphasises that the three pillars of sustainability are to drive and deliver accelerated positive environmental, social and economic benefit for which she adds “we know our workforce are key.”