A new National Fleet Support Unit (NFSU) has been set up in Scotland to maximise fleet acquisition, utilisation and operating efficiency across the NHS. Michael Jackson, its new General Manager, explains all to Fleet Manager...
When and why was the National Fleet Support Unit set up?
The NHS Scotland (NHSS) Facilities Shared Services Programme Board was established to explore opportunities for NHS Boards to utilise resources in more effective and innovative ways. A National Fleet Management review was one of the Board’s early work streams.
The aim of the review was to investigate and identify the potential synergies to be gained from greater collaboration of fleet management between the 22 NHSS Health Boards, in order to maximise efficiency without compromising operational effectiveness, and ultimately achieve Best Value.
The National Fleet Support Unit (NFSU) was created in April 2016 as a result of the national review, which recommended that NHS Boards form Regional Fleet Management Operations supported by a national support function.
How have you, personally, been involved in the National review?
In 2011 I was asked to write a report for the Scottish Government Health Department on Vehicle & Equipment Funding and Fleet Management within NHSScotland. The high level paper advised on the options that were available for funding the replacement of vehicles within the NHSS fleets. Due to the pressures that currently exist with regard to revenue budgets, the paper also advised on ways in which the NHSS fleets could collaborate more effectively in order to improve the delivery of services and reduce revenue expenditure. Following on from this report, I was asked to carry out the National Fleet Management review.
How are NHS fleets in Scotland supported by the unit?
Collectively, NHSS has a huge fleet of vehicles – circa 10.5k, which are currently managed by in excess of 30 different Fleet/Transport operations, with a total net revenue expenditure of circa £62.5m/annum and a capital replacement value of circa £226m.
The National Fleet Support Unit (NFSU) will be undertaking key fleet management and engineering duties on a national basis for NHSS and will support the development of a regional fleet management structure. This will help to ensure that the NHSS Fleet/Transport structure and operation is flexible, resilient and has an appropriate skill mix, in order to maximise service improvement, efficiencies and opportunities and ensure that the operation is responsive to the future needs of NHSScotland.
The NFSU will provide support to NHS Boards through the planned Regional Fleet Management Operations, provide administrative support, develop national technical specifications for vehicles with the various Boards’ representatives and develop contracts with our National Procurement colleagues that will be used to procure the majority of vehicles across NHSS. A key function of the department is the assessment of Road Risk and the formation of long-term strategies and plans to reduce it as effectively as possible.
The unit will develop with the Boards all fleet strategies and supporting policies for NHSS, and will implement and manage the national fleet management and telematics systems that will be used to provide management information to the Regions/Boards.
What is your role within the NFSU and how big is your team?
In April 2016, I took on the role of General Manager and was asked to establish and lead the new National Fleet Support Unit (NFSU) and provide strategic leadership and professional technical / managerial advice on fleet management services across NHSScotland.
We will initially have a team of six people and we have recently recruited Shelley MacKay who has taken on the National Fleet Manager role and Trevor Perry who has taken on the role of National Fleet Engineer. Shelley’s previous position was a joint role where she managed both the Local Authority and NHS fleets within Dumfries and Galloway, and Trevor’s previous role was Regional Fleet Manager for The Scottish Ambulance Service.
What are the key benefits expected from the creation of the NFSU?
The main benefits that will be realised by the creation of the NFSU include:
• Reduction in risk - through the introduction of systematic analysis of national systems and the pro-active reporting, it is hoped that there will be a significant reduction in the levels of risk for NHS Board in relation to their fleets.
• Reduce variation; a common national approach to fleet management through adoption of consistent practices and procedures across NHSScotland. We are introducing common fleet management and telematics system across NHSScotland, which will provide the ability to analyse data consistently across all 22 NHS Boards.
• National Joint Fleet Procurement;
Co-ordination and standardisation of vehicle specifications for NHSScotland will result in greater buying power, better utilisation of vehicle assets, reduced operating costs etc.
• Operational resilience and control; the introduction of national systems and a central support unit will give NHSS the ability to consistently manage fleet management operations at a local, regional and national level. Local resilience will be improved through a larger joint operation, working closely with a national support function that can draw on a wider range of shared expertise. Recognition of gaps and weaknesses within current operating structures and ensure that transport governance standards are achieved.
• National visibility and robust management information; will provide a wealth of information including how well vehicles are driven, utilisation, fuel consumption, vehicle location, etc. allowing for proactive decisions to be made based on real-time management information allowing NHS Boards to manage local fleets more effectively.
• National expertise; provide the ability to develop dedicated national expertise to carry out fleet management and fleet engineering duties, currently undertaken multiple times, once nationally and consistently for NHSScotland. The formation of a dedicated professional service specialising in functional areas, such as, telematics analysis and reporting, development of technical specifications, vehicle procurement etc. to meet current and future operational requirements.
Reducing road risk is an integral part of the plan, why?
Business mileage across NHSS is around 120 million miles/annum and we therefore recognise that driving is an essential part of the job description for many staff. We have a duty of care to ensure that our staff and the public in general are as safe as possible and reducing road risk within NHS Scotland is therefore an integral part of our plans.
What type of vehicles do you run on the fleet and why?
Across NHSS, we operate a very wide range of vehicles. These range from 38 tonne artics down to small car-derived vans. Our specialist vehicles include a fleet of Breast Screening trailers, the Blood Transfusion fleet, a wide range of estates and grounds maintenance vehicles and items of plant and of course there is the Scottish Ambulance fleet.
Do Electric Vehicles have a presence on any fleets?
Across NHSS, there are currently around 60 low carbon vehicles, 51 of which are electric and nine are hybrid. These are mostly cars and small vans and there is one Patient Transport ambulance. There are currently nine low carbon vehicles on order, which includes a further three electric vehicles and six hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.
Is Grey Fleet an issue for the NHS in Scotland and (if so) how do you manage this?
NHSS has a huge Grey Fleet, which is managed at a local level. We have just finished a tendering exercise for the provision of a National Fleet Management system and we plan to utilise this to help local Boards manage their Grey fleet. The system will allow for all drivers to be detailed, record and advise when MOTs, Insurance and Driver’s Licences require checking.
We are currently considering the options for driver licence checking and as NHSS have approximately 150k employees; one of the options is for our FMS to have a direct link to DVLA, similar to Driver Licence checking agencies.
Is fleet maintenance and servicing operated in-house or do you outsource?
This is very mixed across the Country. The Scottish Ambulance Service have a network of 16 workshops and they carry out the majority of their work in their in-house workshops.
A large proportion of the vehicles within the NHSS fleets are leased with maintenance, where the leasing companies are responsible for the vehicle maintenance and this is carried out at locally agreed garages/workshops. There are a number of Territorial Health Boards who own their fleets and the maintenance is sub contracted out as is the maintenance of our other specialised owned fleets that are operated by the Scottish Blood Transfusion Service and the Breast Screening Service.
How do you manage fuel use?
The majority of vehicle fuel is purchased via a national fuel card contract. Once the new FMS is operational, we plan to download all fuel data from the Card provider into the FMS where it will be allocated to the various vehicles within the fleet. This will allow us to profile and benchmark fuel usage across all NHSS fleets and produce management reports for local review.
What key issues will affect the management of your fleet over the next five years?
As with all fleets, acquisition and operating costs – Fuel, Maintenance and Leasing – continue to rise, which is creating cost pressures on budgets. There are a number of reviews planned within NHSS, which will have a direct impact on the operational requirements of the NHSS fleet and it is, therefore, imperative that the Fleet/Transport structure is flexible and resilient and is able to respond positively to any planned changes that are required.
The newly formed NFMU will have a big part to play in helping to achieve this and the new structure has been designed to help maintain our duty of care to staff, patients and the public; introduce governance and resilience into the operation; ensure compliance with legislation; deliver service improvements in areas which are weak; and, through better utilisation of the staffing resource, implement and realise potential savings and cost avoidance in the various functional areas.
The introduction of national telematics and fleet management systems alongside national driver licence checking and training strategies, will have a big part to play in our Risk Management strategy and will help to realise potential savings from managing the fleet more effectively and efficiently.