A PATIENT APPROACH
Simon Baynham, property director of The Howard de Walden Estate, on how the Harley Street Medical Area’s next challenge is to ensure patient numbers keep pace with its impressive increase in capacity
Several years ago, when The Howard de Walden Estate began to formulate its long-term plan for the Harley Street Medical Area (HSMA)—the world-renowned collective of hospitals, clinics and practitioners centred upon Marylebone—our primary aim was a simple one: to draw to the area medical providers of global repute, whose arrival would reinforce the solid base of highly regarded hospitals and clinics already operating here, and in doing so significantly enhance the area’s reputation for medical excellence. To fulfil this ambition, our challenge was to identify world-class organisations whose specialisms would complement and augment the existing mix, and then attract them to the HSMA by offering state-of-the-art facilities and a clear vision for the area’s future.
It has not been easy—creating highly sophisticated modern medical accommodation in an area defined by its historic building stock is a challenge, to say the least. But to judge how far we have come in meeting that aspiration, all I need do is scan the list of attendees for one of the HSMA’s regular medical forums, at which clinicians and managers from the area’s medical providers meet, share ideas and catch up on the latest news. Today, that list would include representatives of some of the world’s most respected acute hospitals, as well as leaders in oncology, orthopaedics, optics, sports medicine, mental health, fertility, imaging, and a seemingly endless list of other specialisms.
It is a rollcall that in the next few years is set to become even more impressive. If at any point in the past decade you had asked me to identify the two medical groups in the entire world that I would most like to have join us here, I would have suggested the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic—the USA’s highest performing and most forward-thinking non-profit academic medical centres. Now, both are coming to the HSMA. As part of a wider collaboration with the University of Oxford, the Mayo Clinic is set to open a screening and diagnostics centre on Portland Place in 2019 (a development with which The Howard de Walden Estate is not directly involved, but welcomes with great enthusiasm). The Cleveland Clinic is opening a new hospital on Grosvenor Place, but has chosen to locate the associated diagnostic and outpatient facility, where most patients will begin and end their treatment journeys, here in the HSMA—an offer has been made to the Estate to take a lease on 24 Portland Place, which we expect to be confirmed imminently.
The cherry on top
With providers of the calibre of Royal Brompton & Harefield Hospitals, the Royal Marsden, Moorfields Eye Hospital, The London Clinic, King Edward VII’s Hospital and HCA either here or on their way, together with an exceptional inventory of specialist clinics, these transatlantic arrivals are the cherry on top of an already very impressive cake. Our mission to turn the Harley Street Medical Area into a globally recognised centre of excellence, has, by any measure, been remarkably successful. So, what next? Inevitably, some of our focus will, I believe, shift from attracting providers to attracting patients.
One of the great strengths of the HSMA is the independence with which our operators are able to function. Compared to the purpose-built, centrally organised medical campuses found in some other parts of the world, our hospitals and clinics have a high degree of autonomy. They have their own cultures, their own priorities, their own ways of presenting themselves to the world. And while our strategy has been to provide a diversity of specialisms and services, they are, to a certain extent, competitors as well as neighbours. It is an arrangement that has done much to stimulate innovation, encourage openness and raise standards. But for this to be sustainable as a model, patients need to be drawn here in sufficient numbers for all the providers to thrive. As new facilities open and capacity rises, it is essential that the number of patients coming to the HSMA grows at the same rate at least—and as the steward for the area, The Howard de Walden Estate will do whatever it can to make sure it does. Partly, that means spreading the word about what the area has to offer, but it also means thinking hard about how we can improve the patient experience.
The HSMA already has many attractions that go beyond its medical credentials—its centrality, its transport links, its proximity to restaurants, shops and green spaces—but there is plenty more that we can do to increase our appeal to patients. Certainly, there are measures we can take to help patients better understand the options available to them and access the facilities that best suit their needs, whether that be through concierge services or the HSMA’s own digital platforms.
We are also looking at ways of using our building stock to host services for patients. There is, for example, a good case to be made for the creation of a step-down facility. In some parts of the world, step-down facilities—units for patients who no longer need acute care but can benefit from an active rehabilitation programme designed to help them recover from their illness or surgery and get back to full strength—routinely play a crucial role in treatment pathways but in the UK, they remain few and far between. Establishing one in the HSMA would give patients the opportunity to convalesce under the guidance of experts, while remaining within easy reach of their consultants—particularly useful given the distances many of those patients will have travelled to get here.
Similarly, a patient hotel—offering comfortable accommodation for people who are recuperating from or awaiting treatment and who need to be close to their clinic, potentially with access to dietary, therapeutic or pharmaceutical services—would be a significant addition to the area. Patients’ families would also benefit from a patient hotel, and there are other ways in which the Estate could help meet their needs. We might, for example, dedicate some of our residential properties to short-term lets for people who are here to access the HSMA. Along similar lines, we are also looking at ways of providing accommodation at discounted rents for key workers. This could include junior doctors, nurses, technicians and support staff, upon whose skills the area depends, but whose prospects of finding an affordable home close to their central London workplaces are increasingly limited.
Every measure we take to create a more seamless experience for users of the area’s diverse services or to sell what we’re doing around the world will rely upon the HSMA’s clinics and hospitals working closely with us and with each other. A decade ago, before the Estate had formulated its medical strategy, many of our providers were quite insular in their bearing, uninclined to even meet each other, let alone collaborate. Today, things look very different. To give just one quite striking example, The London Clinic has started providing a range of clinical services to Schoen Clinic London, including the use of its new 3T MRI scanner and other diagnostic technologies, and access to its consultants. Many of our providers are also frequently referring patients to each other, making use of their respective specialisms.
A modernising spirit
In part, this healthy appetite for engagement reflects a modernising spirit that is now blossoming throughout the healthcare sector, but it is also directly attributable to the work we have done to make our medical occupiers feel part of a wider whole, the collective strength of which benefits all of its many constituents. The Harley Street Medical Area may have spent many years growing in scale and ambition, but it is also becoming much tighter in its bonds and more coherent in its form. That can only bode well for the next phase of its development.