Hospital Refurbishment: Operations Where Trust Is Critical

  09 March, 2020      Industry Insights
Hospital Refurbishment: Operations Where Trust Is Critical

As hospital refurbishment occupies a big proportion of the construction landscape, sensitive handling of works is of critical importance.

From New-Build to Refurbishment

Strong, honest relationships between supplier and client are increasingly vital to successful completion of the works.
In recent times, there has been a big shift in government strategy with regards to developing the healthcare estate in the UK. This movement has been focussed on moving away from new-build into more refurbishment based projects.

Previously, largely PFI financed projects have seen a series of new hospitals and healthcare centres built throughout the UK however this has now given way to a much greater focus on improvement and extension works to existing assets.

There has also been a shift in direction away from investing in centralised acute care facilities towards improving primary and community care buildings.

These facilities include General Practitioners (GPs) and specialist care facilities such as those specifically catering for mental health.

A Construction Perspective

From a construction standpoint these shifts have had two major impacts.

Firstly, works are more frequently undertaken within (or in close proximity to) live healthcare environments.

Secondly, the activities commonly consist of smaller projects that are distributed over a large geographical area.

As a result, construction workers are placed more closely to clinical staff and their patients than ever before.

Sensitivity and trust in the relationships between client and contractor therefore have never been more crucial considerations in recent times.

Concurrently, the more distributed nature of the work has caused a rise in longer term framework agreements rather than ad-hoc or project-by-project working.

Hospital Refurbishment Can Be Complicated

By their nature, hospital refurbishment projects can vary in terms of their scale and complexity.

Broadly, the brief for these projects is usually to renovate an ageing building that was constructed in an era when the expectations of patients and staff were not as sophisticated as those of modern day.

The objective therefore is to turn it into a facility that offers state-of-the-art standards of care.

The end goal is to transform outdated facilities that are no longer fit for purpose into clean, bright and modern environments that make a significant contribution to the wellbeing of patients and hospital workers.

For teams delivering these projects, the works involved may present a multifaceted and wide-ranging challenge, oftentimes more so than almost any other kind of building refurbishment project.

They often demand not just aesthetic upgrades but also significant structural works to allow for the way spaces are used to be changed, to let in more natural light or to provide easier access for patients.

Combined, these demands create the requirement for close collaborative working relationships between a wide range of teams and departments.

Conditions are made even more challenging by the demands of carrying out the works in a functional, working, and busy hospital environment.

Working in live hospital environments

When it comes to hospital refurbishment, upgrades need to be carried out when the facility remains open and in full use.

The growing demands on the NHS means that it is impossible to close a hospital in order to complete these improvement works.

One common approach to managing these complicated works effectively (negating the need to close off entire areas of the facility for a prolonged period), is to adopt a rolling programme of works.

For example, the team might agree to work on just one ward within a wider unit at any given time, leaving the remaining wards live whenever work was being carried out.

This approach to completing the projected out at a pace agreed with clinical staff means that patients can then gradually be re-located into the refurbished areas to allow work to continue in new areas.

Planning a Hospital Refurbishment

For a hospital refurbishment to be carried out seamlessly, it is key for the team delivering the project to work smoothly alongside clinical staff and other stakeholders throughout the programme with clear and honest dialogue.

Involving contractors and senior hospital managers in the early stages of design meetings can allow any potential issues that may cause disruption to clinical operations to be identified and tackled.

This information gathering stage should be considered critical to any hospital refurbishment project.

In addition, the approach to communications with management and key staff members in the early going, sets the tone for a the project and informs the creation of a schema of work that everyone can get on board with.

Of course, it is also vital that this remains fluid and adaptable, with built-in flexibility to accommodate the outcomes of further progress meetings as the project develops.

The outcomes from these initial consultations must be followed throughout the project, with regular engagement to support and enforce communication.

At every stage, consultation with all parties reduces the potential for frustrations and other barriers to arise.

The Importance of Trust in Complex Hospital Refurbishment Projects

As the health sector’s investment plans move towards refurbishment and as contractors working near patients and care givers becomes more commonplace, the trust between client and contractor has become more important than ever.

When building trust, longer term agreements between clients and contractors can deliver significant benefits.

Not only do they help establish mutual objectives but also enable smaller refurbishment projects that are spread over a wider geographical area to be delivered to a consistently high standard; a greater challenge when using a patchwork of suppliers.

There are significant mutual benefits to this way of working, with individual project costs often being reduced as onboarding processes can be significantly more efficient.

Contractor commitment is also strengthened by the greater forward visibility of revenue and long-term continuous improvement plans forged.

Knowledge sharing additionally helps to improve processes across multiple future projects, driving efficiency.

When carrying out this kind of project, Novus will frequently establish a temporary office on-site from which to co-ordinate the works on the ground.

A senior manager is always available to liaise with any member of hospital staff, ensuring that the team is always visible and approachable and allowing any potential grievances to be nipped in the bud.

Healthcare refurbishment is arguably the area of the construction industry where sensitive and considerate working practices are most important.

Ultimately, with the right level of planning and communication – and a commitment to understanding and truly working with the needs of patients and staff – it is possible even in the most sensitive of healthcare environments to deliver outstanding refurbishments that will support excellent patient care for many years to come.

More Information

For more on how Novus can help with refurbishment projects of all kinds, contact us for more information today.

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