Contract notice for delivery partner to oversee ‘fundamental shift’ in healthcare schemes to be posted by September

Last week, Building revealed that the government is preparing to announce a significant new funding package for the New Hospital Programme (NHP), the plan to build 40 new hospitals in England by 2030.

First announced by Boris Johnson in the run-up to the 2019 general election, the programme was immediately criticised for its vagueness about what constituted a hospital. Many of the schemes were in fact extensions of existing hospitals or smaller health projects. 

Perkins hospital

Perkins & Will’s designs for a new hospital for the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Since officially being set up in 2020, the NHP has made little progress. A BBC report last week found that just seven out of the 40 identified schemes had started construction, while all six of the full-size hospitals which had been promised to open by 2025 lack both funding and planning permission.

In an online market update last week, NHP leaders sought to reassure suppliers that the programme was not on life support, as many had feared. They said they had agreed a “very significant top-level funding package” from the Treasury which will be announced “imminently”.

>> Also read: Exclusive: Government to unveil major funding package for New Hospital Programme ‘within a week’

More details were provided about how the schemes would be built using modern methods of construction (MMC) integrated throughout the supply chain, creating a “national industry that will sustain us for many years to come”.

The NHP also revealed the appointment process for a programme delivery partner (PDP), a consortium of project managers which will drive efficiencies in schemes using MMC and material standardisation.

Here’s what we know so far:

What is going to be built ?

The NHP says it will build at least 1 million m2 of new hospital space by 2030, keeping the original deadline. These “smarter, greener, efficient multiple mega projects” are part of a wider plan to transform how healthcare is delivered in England. It is a “once in a generation opportunity to create a fundamental shift of how healthcare facilities are conceived, developed and delivered”, the NHP representatives told suppliers during the online market update last week.

This is about much more than construction, NHP chief programme officer Morag Stuart said. “We are genuinely trying to transform a very significant part of the NHS system. Half of what we’re doing is a transformation programme, and the other half is an infrastructure programme,” she said.

At the centre of the programme will be the “hospital 2.0” concept, a vision for how hospital schemes can be delivered with greater efficiency and reduced cost. An integrated systems approach will provide “optimised, standardised and repeatable solutions for scheme development, design, construction and operation,” the NHP said. 

Potential efficiencies will include vastly reducing the types of components used in hospitals, including cutting the number of door types from around 27,000 to 700.

Sustainability is also central to the programme, with all schemes aiming to achieve BREEAM Excellent.

Modern Methods of Construction

Building such a large programme efficiently will require an industrialisation process that “unlocks economies of scale by integrating policies into key design principles”. Use of standard rule sets will aim to allow the market to proactively plan resources and innovate using manufacturing strategies, the NHP said.

Programme director Saurabh Bhandari said the NHP would “seed the market to go on that direction”, adding: “We need to industrialise the way we design, the way we manufacture and assemble the buildings, and for that we need to engage with the market proactively to innovate these strategies.”

As part of the hospital 2.0 plan, the NHP leaders said it will pursue standardised designs and product modularization to create an NHS kit-of-parts, employing modern methods of construction to speed up the build, reduce cost and increase quality.

It is believed this will allow the NHP to build its schemes up to 20% cheaper and up to 25% faster.

The approach appears to be a super-sized version of the Ministry of Justice’s £1bn prisons programme, which is using material and design standardisation to build four new adult male prisons. It is unclear if the NHP will also use an alliance contract, which is currently being used for the prisons programme with Kier, ISG, Wates and Laing O’Rourke.

In its early phases, the NHP presentation said it will be “reliant on assumptions and existing practices”, but will amass evidence on all aspects of hospital design as the programme matures. This intends to avoid the shortfalls of traditional standalone schemes, which result in a “new solution to the same fundamental challenges developed each time and no learning between projects”.

How will the programme delivery partner role work?

The programme delivery partner (PDP) is likely to be a consortium of project manager firms that will have responsibility for delivering the NHP’s strategic goals on time and within budget. It will be the “responsible” party, with the NHP remaining the “accountable” party.

The PDP’s key functions will include management of the overall programme, design, cost assurance, setting standards and delivery. It will need to have the technical capability to inform and deliver strategy for “transformational design”, maintenance, management and operation of hospitals, business case preparation and approval, digital transformation and MMC. It will directly procure and manage hospital designs up to RIBA stage 3.

In its presentation to suppliers the NHP said it wants the PDP to be a “world class leadership team” across these disciplines, with a supply chain that can deliver the programme’s goals. The PDP will be a coherent and collaborative organisation with the “right culture and behaviours”, and the flexibility to meet changing requirements and emerging risks, the NHP said.

A wish list of attributes wanted by the NHP includes “strategists and futurists” to develop innovative solutions, systems engineering “pedigree” to aid MMC and industrialisation, a data-driven and evidence-based culture, and an ability to implement “market-shaping” changes.

How will the programme delivery partner be appointed?

A call for competition using a contract notice posted on the government’s Find a Tender portal will be used to appoint the PDP. This will be followed by a selection stage where bidders will be evaluated and shortlisted for tendering.

Shortlisted firms will then be invited to enter a negotiation stage with the NHP, which will leave flexibility to either award on the basis of initial tenders or negotiate an improved tender. Firms will then be invited to submit a final tender stage before the final tender evaluation and the award stage.

The NHP says it will launch the competition by September this year, but aspires to launch earlier if possible. Further pre-launch briefings, following last week’s update and a previous update in January, are planned.

Award criteria, which the NHP said is subject to change, is currently based on people and behaviours, including a behavioural assessment, delivery approach, transformation approach and social value.

Price criteria will be based on social value, pay rates for the PDP leadership team, overheads and fees.