With intensive care units up and down the country under immense pressure and our hospitals at bursting point, the much-maligned construction industry is uniquely positioned to increase the capacity of our NHS, and quickly. In the face of an exceptional and rapidly evolving crisis, the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), in conjunction with NHS England, have taken the decision to extend the ProCure22 Framework for up to 12 months. They have advised the existing Principle Supply Chain Partners (PSCPs) and their supply chain members that they are ‘optimally positioned to meet the needs of the NHS’, able to readily mobilise their substantial resources to create much-needed space, as well as provide specialist solutions to the unique challenges facing our health service – including boxed and ready contactless wi-fi nurse call systems. The transparent commercial nature of ProCure22 means the financially stretched Government can rely on value for money being achieved, irrespective of the scope of services required from those supply chains already in place.
A unique global pandemic has led to unprecedented moves from our Government in every area, including a reduction in red tape which will enable procurement to take place first, with the ‘tidying up’ done later – a move I have not seen replicated in my lifetime.
In response, PSCPs have already developed designs which comply with the guidance published by the DHSC to help the NHS create spaces that meet the very specific challenges associated with the treatment of those battling COVID-19, including the increased provision for intubated patients. As the pandemic matures there is likely to be a series of changes NHS providers will have to make to meet these needs. The skills of PSCPs and their highly specialised supply chain members are ready, willing, and able to meet those demands.
By introducing round-the-clock working, targeted phasing to ensure the most advanced projects are fast-tracked to completion, and relaxing soft-landing requirements we could create the additional capacity so desperately needed. It is recognised that each PSCP has established relationships with specialists in factory fabrication who can readily build units and fit them out to meet specific requirements. Pathology services are already under severe pressure, so generating additional capacity here is a predictable necessity. In the interim, universities now being effectively closed, there are many laboratories capable of being utilised and, should any modifications be required, many of the PSCPs also have experience working in Higher Education.
As has been well publicised, the military has provided support in creating ‘field hospital’ solutions. It has been suggested that PSCPs can step in where the military resources need reinforcing, making available design engineers and MEP contractors who can fit out space effectively and speedily. Contractors who are suppliers in other public sector frameworks are similarly keen to support the NHS, such as Scape and the new NHS SBS Contractor framework. Project management and activity planners will need to be mobilised, too along with an army of labourers and tradespeople on the ground.
The NHS is, as I write, just about finding its way through this truly heartbreaking situation. However, with the speed this pandemic is moving there is no question that it will need to call upon the very people being condemned for keeping the country building if it is to rise to the challenge ahead.