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Healthcare / New models of care

South Wales hospital opens a year early to support COVID-19 contingency

By Andrew Sansom 01 May 2020 0

Part of the £350 million Grange University Hospital in Gwent, South Wales, has opened almost a year ahead of schedule to support efforts to tackle COVID-19.

Work has been completed on several sections of the hospital, which has been fast-tracked in order to make 384 new beds available to coronavirus patients battling the disease if required. With Gleeds as project manager and cost manager on the development, and Laing O’Rourke as construction partner, the team have collaborated to deliver the works on behalf of Aneurin Bevan University Health Board (ABUH).

Just four weeks after the health board asked the construction team to respond, ABUH has now taken possession of half of the space within the hospital. NHS staff now have the capacity to treat at least 350 patients, should it be required, following takeover of the majority of the ward blocks, the ground floor of the diagnostic and treatment areas, including the pathology, pharmacy, FM and mortuary departments, as well as car parking zones and plant areas. 

ABUHB chief executive Judith Paget said: “At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak we needed to plan for the worst-case scenario. I would like to thank Laing O’Rourke and Gleeds for the great amount of effort and skill they have shown to get these areas of the hospital ready for us to use. 

“Thankfully, the general public have observed the advice on staying at home and social distancing, so we don’t need to open the extra beds just yet. I would urge people to keep following the government guidance to protect themselves, to ease the pressure on our NHS services, and to save lives.” 

Mike Lewis, Laing O’Rourke project director said: “Aneurin Bevan University Hospital Board had the foresight to ask us to bring our construction programme forward, creating 384 bed spaces as part of their preparations to tackle coronavirus in Wales.”

He continued: “Our motivation to deliver key parts of the Grange for use a year ahead of schedule has been driven by our determination to provide vital NHS facilities and to support all those working in the NHS, to whom we owe so much.”

The project team answered the call by reprioritising site activities, with a new commissioning strategy designed to allow for zonal access and reallocation of resources. The health board team was also able to work alongside the project team on a live site, fitting out the wards with beds and equipment. This collaborative approach condensed the commissioning and soft landings periods from 12 to four weeks.  -

Extensive resource planning was required balancing the need to deliver a fast-track programme while ensuring the safety of the workforce, all of whom worked in line with government and health guidelines, according to Laing O’Rourke. 

All those who had the ability to work from home did so, the contractor confirmed, while stringent and strict hygiene measures were put in place along with patterns and methods of work that allowed for social distancing. Extended working hours with split shifts were introduced with the project team continuing to deliver over weekends, as well as over the Easter period.

Adrian Hitchcock, lead architect for the Grange University Hospital at BDP architects, said: “Our design concept means that the hospital was divided into three distinct zones, which could be progressed with a degree of autonomy from one another. Together with the extensive adoption of off-site fabrication and Laing O’Rourke’s exemplary construction management and delivery, this approach has helped to make early opening possible, if required.”

Victoria Head, project director at Gleeds, said: “Since its inception, the Grange University Hospital (GUH) project has always had a true collaborative ethos at its heart – working together for a shared goal. Gleeds led the leadership team of Laing O’Rourke and ABUHB in its commitment to supporting the health board during this national crisis, and we’ve stuck to that, proudly tackling every challenge to complete the hospital in record time by adopting a solution-based approach.”

She concluded: “With the best will in the world, fundamentally, had this been a traditional build with the same start date we would not have been in a position to offer support to this national pandemic and the NHS. We’ve always been proud of the modern methods of construction (MMC) involved at GUH and the programme savings that it offered compared with a traditional build – but never have the benefits been more apparent than during this crisis.”

The hospital is ready to operate as a fully functioning facility supporting the NHS and acute services in South East Wales as soon as it may be required. Meanwhile, using careful segregation endorsed by infection control, building control and fire officers, work will continue on the remainder of the build with a view to formally completing the scheme in spring 2021.