Mace, BDP and CFES set to hand over remaining beds over coming weeks

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The team behind the NHS Nightingale hospital in east London is set to get the remaining beds planned for the temporary complex ready in record time.

The work to finish the emergency hospital at the ExCel Centre, normally used for trade fairs and exhibitions, is expected to take just several weeks – rather than the years a complex with space for 4,000 beds would normally take.

It was opened remotely by Prince Charles on Friday with the first 500 beds now available to take in patients, who are expected to begin arriving shortly.

It is the first and largest in a series of emergency hospitals being rolled out by the NHS to deal with the covid-19 pandemic across the country and includes sites at Birmingham, Manchester, Harrogate and Glasgow which will total more than 4,500 extra beds.

The first stage of work at the ExCel has been completed in just 10 days and at peak the site had 500 workers on it with some parts of the job, such as installing miles of electrical cabling and critical medical equipment, carried out at night.

Mace was brought in two weeks ago by the hospital’s operator, Barts NHS Trust, the east London trust which runs five hospitals including Barts and the Royal Free, and programme manager KPMG to provide programme and project management services.

Led by Frank Randles, who heads up Mace’s sports and events business, the team expects to be able to deliver 500 intensive care unit beds in a similar time to the first batch.

“It’s a bit of a moving feast over how many beds there will be, it will depend on how much is required,” Randles said. On Friday, the NHS said hospitals in London, which is at the centre of the crisis in the UK, were coping with demand so far.

Randles said Mace has around 30 staff working on the project with the chief executive of the firm’s consulting arm, Jason Millett, also visiting the site every 48 hours.

Millett added: “It’s been a great example of what the whole industry can do when we’re asked to step up.”

Other members of the construction team include principal contractor, London healthcare specialist CFES, and architect BDP.

Randles added: “It’s been a huge logistics operation to stock up a hospital in terms of bed and equipment. People call it a field hospital but it’s much closer to the standards required by a normal hospital.”

Every bed will have its own computer station so doctors can better manage a patient’s care while it is expected at least 12,000 people will be working at the site in addition to patients.

FM work, such as portering and catering services, is being carried out by Mitie and ISS.

Other requirements have included building a pharmacy as well as clinical waste and welfare facilities.

The nearby University of East London is making up to 500 rooms normally used by students available for doctors, medics and other hospital staff working on the site.

Around 300 workers are expected to be required to complete the remaining beds and Randles admitted some had expressed concerns about the threat of catching coronavirus, with worries growing once the first patients, all of whom are expected to be seriously ill with the disease, are admitted.

“We had a town hall meeting in a very large area about it all to give the guys some reassurance,” Randles added.

Measures being taken include a clinical wall between the hospital site and the construction site while a series of 15m wide ‘buffer zones’ have also been added – described by Millett as a no-man’s land between the two parts of the site.

He added: “We wanted to ease that anxiety with what is effectively an extra safety zone. There’s no reason why anyone from the construction side will go into the hospital side. We’ve done an awful lot of work around wellbeing and messaging.”

The site has received wide praise for the speed of the build and the collaboration between the NHS, Ministry of Defence and the ExCel.

Randles, who has been working 14-hour days at the job, added: “It’s been a complicated few weeks but there’s been a really positive spirit. Everyone has laboured for the same thing. Everybody has collaborated really well. People’s attitude has been all about getting the beds ready so people’s lives can be saved. If we could bottle the spirit in which this has been delivered, the industry would be in a better place.”

Project team

NHS - client and partner

CFES - Principal Contractor

KPMG - Programme Management Office

BDP - Architect

Mace - Construction Management, PMO support

Mott Macdonald - various


Wilson James - site logistics

RSP - MEP Consultants

Arcus - Health Planners

Hoare Lea - Commissioning Engineers