Reference designs for hospitals nearly finalised as consortiums bid for £600m programmer delivery partner job

The standardised design for the government’s £20bn New Hospital Programme (NHP) is mostly complete and will be published in May, according to leaders of the programme.

The blueprint for how up to 16 major hospitals across England will be built under the NHP will use modern methods of construction to speed up delivery times and reduce costs.

Leeds Teaching Hospital

Perkins & Will’s designed for the Leeds Teaching Hospital, one of the schemes which will be built using the ‘Hospital 2.0’ approach

Lord Markham, an under secretary of state for health who is responsible for the NHP, said the design product will be the “culmination of the programme’s learnings so far”.

But he also said there will “inevitably be minor changes” made to the standardised design, known as ‘Hospital 2.0’, as projects progress.

Speaking at a meeting of the all party parliamentary group for health infrastructure, Markham admitted there had been “bumps in the road” but that standardisation “remains central to the programme’s success”.

The design, which will be first used in the second cohort of hospitals under the programme, aims to reduce the number of component types used in schemes to allow mass offsite manufacturing.

Developments so far include reducing the number of door types used in the NHS from the current 27,000 to around 700. Reference designs for hospitals are also being standardised, as opposed to individual elements.

Natalie Forrest, who is leading the programme, said the development of reference designs will make it easier to “quickly understand how much a project will cost and if it is feasible.”

Planning and approval processes will also be made more streamlined and efficient so they become a “simple box-ticking exercise” which takes years off overall delivery time, she added.

Meanwhile, several consortia of consultants have put in bids to become the NHP’s programme delivery partner (PDP), a six-year job to oversee the NHP on a contract worth up to £600m.

Consortia are understood to contain around 10 to 12 individual firms, including architects, cost consultants, healthcare planners, town planners and engineering firms. 

The NHP is said to have indicated that the chosen PDP will need between 350 and 500 staff for the job, which will start in the 2024/25 financial year and run until 2030/31, with the possibility to extend for up to four years.

The first stage of qualification came out just before Christmas, with consortia expecting to find out if they have got through to the second stage of the procurement process within the next month, after which the final brief for the job will be revealed.

Mott MacDonald is currently the interim PDP and is understood to be among one of the firms in a consortium bidding for the job.

The approach taken by the NHP was criticised by the National Audit Office (NAO) last July because it was seen as potentially leading to the construction of hospitals which were too small due to assumptions over the amount of care that would be provided outside of hospitals.

The NAO also said ministers had taken the “maximum risk” option to delay the construction of a majority of schemes until the second half of this decade, meaning the volume of work happening at the same time could result in labour shortages and potentially increase costs.